Preparing for grad school: top mistakes


#1  Letting false humility  get the best of you

Sometimes students put off grad school because of a false feeling that they do not have what it takes to succeed. Trisha Posey, Honors Scholars Program Director, said that John Brown University students often confuse humility with self-deprecation.

“We think that being humble means not recognizing the skills we have,” Posey said. “God has given us these skills.”

#2 Only applying to one graduate school

Posey said that only applying to easy schools and only applying to the best schools are both traps to avoid.

She said students should apply to a range of schools: two you know you can get into, two schools that are more challenging, and two dream schools.

#3 Not knowing where to start

Reach out to faculty in your area of study for guidance. Once you’ve found several schools and programs that you’re interested in, set up an appointment with Raynisha Robinson, Director of Career Development, for further assistance. Make sure you come prepared. “I will be your greatest champion when I know you’ve taken the initiative,” Robinson said.

#4 Waiting until the last minute to fill out an application

Don’t procrastinate. Leave time to craft a thoughtful letter of intent and edit your application for errors. Posey warned that applications take a lot of thought, especially the letter of intent.

#5 Missing  opportunities for practical experience throughout your undergraduate   studies

As an undergrad, look for opportunities to do an internship, volunteer in your area of study, and complete a senior thesis. These activities will bolster your application. In addition, the experience will help you figure out what careers and graduate programs suit you.

“Graduate schools want to know that you have a deep commitment to this field of study, and that isn’t always demonstrated by what you do in class,” Posey said.

#6 Not paying  attention to grades

While grad schools want to see commitment to your area of study outside the classroom, what you do inside the classroom is just as important. Grad schools often have minimum grade and test score requirements that you need to meet before they’ll look at you.

#7 Attending grad school as a gap year because of uncertainty

Robinson and Rebekah Brown, project coordinator for the Career Development Center, warned that pursing graduate school because you’re not sure what else to do can be a huge waste of time and money.

Taking a gap year to travel, work, serve and gain experience can go a long way towards helping you find a passion without racking up more debt.

#8 Winging a standardized test

If you need test preparation materials, the Career Development Center has study books you can borrow.

Brown said she was told that you can’t study for the MAT when she was preparing for grad school, but this isn’t true.

She used, which has vocab lists for specific tests like the GRE and the MAT.

Posey recommended that students take tests like the GRE twice.

She said scores are often higher after a second go because students know what to expect and are more confident.