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Prepare for Graduate School
College was a cultural, social and academic shift from high school. Graduate school is another huge change. Most people who’ve been through it will tell you that it’s a lot of work and not as much play as college. On the other hand, you’re more mature and experienced and probably ready to take on new challenges. If you know what to expect and how to manage it, grad school is a rewarding and beneficial experience.

First of all, the work load may shock you. Consider graduate school like your full-time job—and then some. In other words, don’t expect to have the kind of social life you might have had in college. When it gets tough, remind yourself that you’re studying what you love, or at least what will get you where you want to go in your career. It’s also good to give yourself a break: Chances are, the amount of reading you’re asked to do isn’t humanly possible. So get done what needs to get done, skim the rest and take solace in the fact that everyone else is in the same stressful boat.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek out help. You were accepted to grad school, so there’s good evidence that you’re smart and have good study habits, but this is different, so don’t feel like you need to go it alone. Talk to your professors if you feel confused, stuck—or inspired. They’ll appreciate you showing initiative. Also, while graduate school doesn’t have as much built-in guidance as undergrad does, there are still resources that can help with things like time management, preparing for nerve-racking oral presentations or even making friends.


Which brings us to: Make friends in grad school. You’ll always have your Alpha Phi sisters, but if they’re not with you in this chapter of your life, branch out a little. Hit the gym—it might alleviate some stress and help you sleep well too—join a campus service club or simply study with your classmates. If you prefer to study alone, take part in study groups now and then, as these people are your comrades through school’s ups and downs.

Besides exercising, remember to eat well. You do yourself no favors by living on coffee and Red Bull. Remember what your mother told you and fuel up for the day with a healthy, protein-heavy breakfast, and drink lots of water. Resist going out to eat and ordering in, as you’ll probably spend too much and eat poorly. Instead, grab those newfound friends and cook together. Or make your own, healthy meals. You’ll only have yourself to blame if you work hard only to be down for the count when you get sick from unhealthy habits.

Another important part of grad school is the connections you’ll make. Talk to your professors because they are probably some of the bigwigs in your field. They have the knowledge you need, and they also may have the power to help you get a job.

Speaking of getting a job, it’ll help the process if you organize the work you complete in graduate school, starting earlier than later. Other than your thesis (which goes without saying should be organized), consider keeping digital folders of any academic papers, studies or research you do.

In the end, graduate school can boost knowledge, earning potential and your career in general, but it’s up to you to graduate with more than just a degree.

Personal Statement

How to Write a Graduate School Admission Essay
What do a surgeon, a lawyer and a professor have in common? They all had to write a personal essay for their graduate school application. The graduate school essay can be incredibly stressful, so check out these tips to be prepared and to make it more manageable.

Talk to people who are in your prospective program: Connect with university alumni and Alpha Phis who work in your planned career field. They can give you writing samples and advice regarding your essay’s content and maybe edit a draft for you. Some might be able to put you in contact with professors who teach at your dream school and could provide insight into what the department looks for. The possibilities are endless.

You’re smart, so show it:
Write about that research paper you were so proud of, or discuss what you learned in the lab where you practically slept while running all those experiments. Describe your mentors and how they influenced your academic career. Talk about the moment you knew you had to go to graduate school. Don’t be shy about discussing your academic achievements. You are trying to convince a graduate program that your intellect would be beneficial to their program.

Add some spice to your essay: By adding colorful details, you will maintain your reader’s interest. Feel free to incorporate your ethnic, religious or cultural background. This will allow the admissions committee to fully understand your individuality or any obstacles you have encountered and surmounted. In addition, tie in your other passions and hobbies with your motivations for attending graduate school. For example, incorporate your lifelong dream of becoming a batboy for a baseball team into the reasons why you want to study gender inequity within religious institutions. If you decide to take this route, make sure that all details relate back to your thesis.

Edit, Edit, Edit: The graduate admissions process has no room for typos. Ask your professors, ask that friend who constantly reminds you it’s “well” instead of “good,” ask your parents and anyone else you trust to read over your essay. One general editing tip: Remove any details that are superfluous to your argument. At times, graduate school essays can have too much information, and admissions committee members gloss over them. Try to find a balance between academics and your personality. And yes, sorry to say, but each school should have a personalized essay. Your reasons for applying to University X should be different than your reasons for applying to University Y; let your essay reflect that.

Above all, do not underestimate your academic prowess! Be confident about your abilities. If you are excited by the prospect of pursuing a subject that interests you, it will show in your essay. Have fun with this process, plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to review your essay. Good luck!


This article is courtesy of the “Collegiate Perspectives” blog by Devin Denny


office-620822_1280Funding Graduate School
You’ve decided what you want to be when you grow up, and it requires more schooling than your four-year undergraduate degree. Which also means more money. Have no fear, there are ways to fund your dream.

What does the school offer?
First check the school you’re considering. It probably offers some scholarships, fellowships, work opportunities and other funding options. Many universities have financial aid offices that specifically help with these sorts of questions, but you can also contact your specific department of interest, as they may know of other money sources. Another good source: current students. Tap their brains to find out how they’re making ends meet.

Apply for Alpha Phi Foundation Scholarships
Did you know that there are scholarships available for Alpha Phis applying to/attending graduate school? With the high costs of graduate school, Alpha Phi understands the impact that scholarships make in helping Alpha Phi women pursue their academic and professional passions without financial burden. In 2019, 1 in 4 Alpha Phis who applied for graduate scholarships were awarding funding towards their advanced degrees, so be sure to take advantage of this exciting opportunity. Applications are open from December 1 through March 1. Click here to learn more and start your application today!

Federal and state aid
Like undergrad, many graduate students fund their education through federal and state loans—you know, that multi-page FAFSA (free application for federal student aid). Unlike undergrad, though, you’re now considered independent from your parents, so you won’t need all their financial details, just your own. Good news: initial loans are often larger than for undergraduate loans, they’re eligible for repayment plans based on your income, and depending on your career field, some are even forgiven. Bad news: interest rates are usually higher, and they start calculating right away, so plan wisely.

Fellowships are coveted awards that bear names like Rhodes and Fulbright and might include a tuition waiver, travel, stipend for independent research or other bonus. Of course, they’re highly competitive and typically weigh academic achievement heavily, as well as character. Besides the big-name fellowships, many universities have their own that are less competitive, so check their websites.

You’ll have to work for your money with an assistantship—for instance, helping a faculty member with research, teaching a class or providing administrative duties—but you’ll get work experience and probably a great reference upon graduating. Just be prepared for the stress and time constraints that working will add to your schedule.

Private loans
While private loans typically come with a higher interest than state or federal loans, they’re often a good last resort. You’d apply at individual banks or financial institutions for these where your credit and income would be considered. If you don’t qualify on your own, you can have a co-signer. Do your research, as some private loans offer benefits for certain career fields, such as cost of living expenses.

Related work
If nothing else, you can earn some money by working outside of your class time in a related capacity, such as teaching at a nearby community college or writing for trade journals.

Sites that provide a listing or links to graduate school funding options and information:,, and, which has a dedicated financial aid section.


Applying for Grad School
If you’re headed to graduate school in the fall, then you’ve already done the applying part (congrats!). But maybe you’re only contemplating graduate school now and still considering your options or you’re interested in getting some work experience first to increase your odds of being accepted. Either way, it’s best to do some of your grad school application legwork before leaving school.


Talk to Your Teachers
As the year is winding down, connect with one or two teachers who know you best and talk to them about which graduate school programs they’d suggest for you. Request information from the schools, and then ask your teachers if they’d be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. Best to ask now rather than waiting until after you’ve left school. Chances are, you’ll need two or more letters for an application. You’ll also need school transcripts, so keep that in mind; you might not be able to get them before you graduate, but you should know how to request them and how much they cost—anywhere from free up to $25 each.

Tackle the Exams
Does your grad school of interest require an exam? Find out—and what score you should aim for to be in serious contention for acceptance. Most graduate schools require the GRE, but if you’re considering law school, you’d go for an LSAT, medical school requires the MCAT, and business school, usually a GMAT. It’s also a good idea to enroll in a test prep course to fully prepare—the sooner the better. Tests are generally offered several times a year, so work backward to plan your study schedule. If you don’t pass the first time, you can typically retake an exam within the same year. has some good, basic info on each type of graduate school exam.

Draft Your Personal Statement
For college applications, the essay was your beast to tame; for graduate school, it’s a slightly bigger beast, because you’ll need to not only recap your academic career, but indicate why you will make a good addition to their program. The trick is to tell a story—the story of you—while simultaneously giving admissions readers all the information they need about your qualifications. Get more tips in “How to Write a Graduate School Admission Essay.”

Gather Samples of Your Work
Depending on the type of graduate school you’re applying to, samples mean different things: an art portfolio, research results, published papers, etc. Whatever it is, take care to present it in an appealing, comprehensible, user-friendly way. Whatever you do to make it easier for the admissions committee to receive, understand and, hopefully, enjoy your submission, works in your favor.

Check the Instructions
Each graduate school may have slightly different requirements and requests. Be sure you understand and follow the directions for each one. Failing to do so not only shows a lack of respect for the process, but it makes you look lazy and may kick you out of the running entirely. For example, maybe one school wants 1,000 words for a personal statement, while another one says 500 max, but you send them both 1,000. It will only take a second for the admissions office to put your application in the “doesn’t follow instructions” pile.

Cross Your Ts
No point in rushing to send something if it’s not done well. Give yourself enough time to complete your application and then have time to edit and proofread. An admissions committee might not notice that you’ve polished your application to perfection, but they’ll certainly notice if you don’t.