Suite News: Tips to Prepare You for Graduate School

Mary headshot

Mary Gallagher

If you’re reading this right now, congratulations are in order! Your semester is about to wrap up, and that hopefully means you’re done with classes, your final papers are turned in, and only a couple of exams stand between you and your summer break (or graduation!). I’m proud of you: you’re almost there!

My name is Mary Gallagher, and I’m the Assistant Director of the Center for Academic Success (CAS). Over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling your pain: I too, have been writing a few final papers. In addition to working full-time here at USG, I’m also a student. When this semester ends (FINALLY!), I’ll be five classes away from completing coursework for my Ph.D in Language, Literacy, and Culture, which I’m pursuing at UMBC (Go Retrievers!). Just like you, I have been fighting senioritis, the exhausting feelings that beg you to do ANYTHING but study for that test, or finish that paper.

Mary 1It’s not always easy to juggle my work life, personal life, and Ph.D life, but I enjoy my program, and what I learn in my classes, I apply directly to my work with you. I’m glad I made the decision to go on to graduate school.

As we approach the end of an academic year, I imagine many of you may be considering graduate school. Whether you’re exploring your options, or know exactly the school and program you want to attend, here are a few tips to help you navigate the process:

  • Find a mentor and advocate in your discipline: Finding the right graduate school for you and your specific career goals is important. You’ll need to consider things like availability of funding and assistantships, faculty reputation, job placement, research opportunities, location, etc. Make sure you seek advice from people who know the landscape in the particular field you’re pursuing, specifically your program director or your professors. Their specialized knowledge in the field will help guide your search. As a bonus, these mentors can also become advocates for you when you need letters of recommendation!
  • Now that you’re done studying for your classes, study some more! I know, I know… more studying is just about the last thing you want to think about right now, but the summer is a key time to prepare for and take any entrance exams that will be required for your applications. For most graduate schools, you’ll need to take the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE, but specialized or professional schools may require other entrance exams (e.g., MCAT for medical school; LSAT for law school; GMAT for business school).

Those of you who need to take the GRE are lucky: did you know that CAS is offering a GRE Preparation Workshop Series this June? For only $50, current USG students and alumni will learn strategies to master the math, verbal, and writing sections of the GRE. The Series will meet in the evening (6-9pm) on Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 5 – 30.

GRE flyer

  • Now that you’re done writing papers, write some more! Again, I know… but the summer is also a great time to draft your personal statement! This is an important piece of your application. By the time you apply to graduate schools, a lot of your application is essentially set in place: you don’t have much control over your transcript or your letters of recommendation but, you do have a lot of control over your personal statement. This is your chance to really make yourself shine! I recommend getting lots of feedback on this document and drafting, revising, and editing it multiple times so you can be very proud of it. Also, don’t forget that you can make a writing appointment at CAS for help on your personal statement.

With summer looming and freedom so close, I realize that it may be difficult to make any decision that might result in additional classes, exams and papers, but if you do decide graduate school is in your future, than you should start to explore and prepare now.

I look forward to seeing you this summer for the GRE Preparation Workshop series.  To schedule an appointment with CAS call 301-738-6315 or visit us online at

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