Written by: TJ Murphy, PhD
Emory University Professor of Pharmacology and Biostatistics
As an honor student, there is a very good chance that you’ll end up in graduate school. If you don’t go right out of college, you’ll take a gap for a couple of years before returning. Chances are you’ll earn that advanced degree at a different university in a town or a city somewhere else.
Honor students like to learn. In all probability, your main motivation for that next degree is to satisfy your academic curiosity. You’ll just want to dig deeper into a specialty that interests you. You’ll probably get a master’s but there’s a good chance a doctorate is in your future, whether a professional degree like the MD or a research degree like the PhD. You may or may not need a master’s before starting a doctorate.
You’ll probably meet your life partner while in graduate school. You may even start a family before you’re through. Your graduate degree and the experiences you encounter there will open doors to a career and a lifestyle you’d otherwise not have.
Your graduate school choice will change the trajectory of your life and your career. It will be the biggest decision you’ve ever made for yourself, and the most important decision you will have made in your life.
At some point you’ll probably begin to research your options. The earlier you start researching the better, because you’ll quickly discover that it is just as important to build a resume for graduate school as it is for a job.
You’ll soon see that, although the internet has a LOT of information, it isn’t quite stitched together in a way that answers your most important question, which is, “What is the best graduate program for me?”
You’ll seek out a lot of advice from people along the way. But the most important guides you’ll find, the real experts, are the people who run graduate programs in the academic fields at the schools that you are considering. These people are the real specialists. They are best equipped to help you find what’s best for you.
Look them up. Seek them out. Reach out to them. Tell them about yourself, about your passions and accomplishments and your dreams. Ask them questions about what their programs can offer you, how their graduates do, and what it takes to gain entry. They’ll see attributes in you that you don’t see in yourself.
You enter unfamiliar territory when you set out on your path to grad school. Your best options are not immediately obvious. Don’t take any chances on researching a life-changing decision as big as this. That’s why guidance from the program experts is so important. Don’t hide from them. They really can help you.
Eventually, you’ll probably discover that your best options are at places where you find people who want to help you.