Graduate School Discernment

At the beginning of my senior year, I happened to unfortunately be one of those soon-to-be matriculating undergraduates that didn’t know what they were going to do.  At the beginning of my undergraduate career, I knew the next 5 years of my life but of course, my path in life changed a couple of times that I never really made an updated 5-year plan.

I applied to various jobs sectors and when interviews never really felt “right”, I then looked into graduate school.  I actively asked my friends and family members what they were thinking and given what they knew about me, what did they see me doing (and more specifically what program).  I’m really glad that I put myself out there and asked their opinion because it helped me discern what I really wanted to do.  I’ve always heard about an M.B.A. (Masters in Business Administration) and an M.P.P. (Masters in Public Policy) that some of my friends were thinking about, but it wasn’t until I talked to my cousin that he suggested an M.P.A. (Masters in Public Affairs/Administration): I never really liked to focus on the business part of an MBA and I didn’t like the theoretical approach of an MPP, but an MPA seemed to conflate the parts that I liked about each program.

At this point, I then looked at schools that had an MPA program and broke the list into regions, specific programs of study, financial information, and especially deadlines.  Writing my personal statement gave me a better sense of how I felt about myself and what I wanted to see in the programs that I either read or visited.  Whenever a school has some getting-to-know-us program or activity online, I made my best to participate.

With all these steps, you are able to make an informed decision even if you may not be able to visit the campus.  Soliciting the opinions of those you trust, then analyzing yourself through your personal statement, and finally soaking up all the information you can from prospective graduate schools would be my general advice for deciding if and deciding where to go.