What to do after applying for grad school?
January 22, 2014 1:32 PM   Subscribe

I just applied to grad school (for a professional program). Should I be doing anything now that I've submitted all my applications? I'm visiting a few of them, but I'm wondering if I should be following-up somehow (like after an interview) or just wait for a decision?

I applied to 5 grad programs in a health professions field (not academic). I did all the online applying business and had all my transcripts sent and so forth, and I've checked in on all my application statuses to make sure things were received and everything's in order.

I may just be having a tough time now that I've hit the submit button, as I'm a bit like "that's it?" (I say 'that's it' like putting together the applications wasn't a ton of work, but you get what I mean...)

I am visiting a couple of the programs, but not all, as they are spread across the country and it just wasn't practical.

Should I be following up or doing anything else in the meantime? Is this the kind of thing where you email the department and say "hey, thanks for reviewing my application, let me know if you have any questions?" Or do I just sit on my hands and wait it out? I don't really have faculty contacts at every single place, and I don't want to seem pushy, but I also don't want to regret not taking the extra step or what have you.

Anything else I'm forgetting to do or ought to be doing?

Thanks everyone!
posted by The Pantless Wonder to Education (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This might not be true of every grad program (and is probably more important at the PhD level), but the single most important thing that I did was make a personal connection with the person I was interested in studying with. This is not weird, and it's considered a normal part of the process. The reason that this is important is because if you have an adviser in your program, they really do want to know if they will enjoy studying with you and directing your particular research interest. If they like you, they will keep an eye out for your application.

Although much of the academic world seems to be built on objective criteria, there is an interpersonal and human dynamic that is perhaps as important as your credentials, all other things being equal. At least at the Ph.D. level, it's been said that it's more important to find the person you want to study with than a particular school. It is possible that you could be accepted without the personal contact, but all things being equal, I suspect that some admissions decisions are determined based on whether or not you are likable and will get along with others in the program, as much as your writing sample and GRE scores.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:14 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

In a 2-year professional master's where you'll be taking a variety of courses with a variety of instructors and possibly not even writing a thesis, making a connection with an individual prof. isn't nearly as important as it is in a PhD program.

The waiting period between now and March (or whenever your notifications arrive) sucks. It's hard to go from spending all your free time jumping through application hoops to just having to twiddle your thumbs and wait. Try to focus on something else for the time being, like your job, or a new hobby, or volunteer work or something.
posted by Ndwright at 2:23 PM on January 22, 2014

I handle the stress of anticipation by distracting myself with related goals; that way, I don't feel like I'm stagnating, with my life on hold.

If you're not coming straight through from undergrad, and are feeling super ambitious, maybe you take a refresher or foundation class (statistics comes to mind) that might kick-start your school brain and make the formal program a little smoother.

If you haven't yet, now is a great time to get into good daily habits of adequate sleep, good food, and some exercise around your work day.

If you are working, try to pay down any credit cards/save up money if at all possible.

I think personal connections are worth pursuing (helped me get into my MA program, because the professor knew I was sincerely into the subject and she wanted to work with me). Also, funding for master's students is not as easy to come by as it is for PhD students. If you want to work in a field-related job part-time while studying, personal connections may be the only way you learn of and are considered for positions like research assistant or TA. Good luck!
posted by Schielisque at 3:16 PM on January 22, 2014

I found it very helpful to sit in on a few classes at each school I was considering. The atmosphere of classes, and how instructors conduct them will tell you a lot about how much you will enjoy learning at that particular school. Spend some time really defining what you want from the school before you visit. Especially at an expensive school, they need your enrollment to pay the bills, so take note of what they promise versus what you want and if they are worth the cost.
posted by effluvia at 3:25 PM on January 22, 2014

While this doesn't specifically answer your question, I found there to be quite a bit of useful info and discussion here: http://forum.thegradcafe.com
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:52 PM on January 22, 2014

Contacting profs is not really a done thing in most professional programs - that's much more of a PhD thing. I mean, sure, if there are profs you are really interested in taking classes and possibly doing research with (in a limited, professional-program way) then go ahead and contact them, but that probably won't make or break your application.

When I applied for public affairs/public policy programs, I spent the downtime sweating it out and (unsuccessfully) applying for a few fellowships. And drinking. There was a lot of drinking. But I did get in to my top choice, so it all worked out. March will be here in no time. Especially if you drink a lot.
posted by lunasol at 7:31 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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