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When should I apply to graduate school?

SpaceshipSpaceship Registered User Posts: 326 Member
edited July 5 in Graduate School
I'm headed into my second senior year, and graduating in Spring 2018 with dual degrees in Geography (GIS emphasis) and Urban Studies and Planning (Transportation emphasis) from San Francisco State University. I currently have a 3.35 GPA, but no extracurriculars (with as many hours as I spend slinging drinks for tourists, I already don't really have free time for other school activities). I haven't done an internship yet, but my Urban Planning program requires an off-campus internship, and I'm aiming to do it in Spring (I wanted to do my internship this Fall, but there are required organizational meetings for the internship that conflict with a critically important GIS class, so I had to push it back a semester). I'm doing my senior thesis for Urban Planning this Fall instead, and doing a senior seminar for Geography in Spring.

I do want to go to graduate school to study transportation planning (regional passenger rail, public transportation, and shipping are my areas of interest), but I'm unsure about the time frame. On the one hand, it would be nice to directly transition from undergrad to grad school, but on the other hand, I'm not sure if my thesis will be graded in time to bring it up on graduate school applications for Fall 2018, or whether I even should. I'm also unsure of whether I really want to try for graduate school without an internship to bring up in my application. These factors may suggest working a bit and trying for graduate school in Spring 2018 (or not, I judge factors poorly), but I don't know if grad programs typically do Spring admissions. I've heard of rolling admissions, but I don't know if those are common in my field. Some people have recommended I go ahead and apply for Fall and see what happens, but every application is over 100 bucks (and I have to pay for the GRE, too), so I need to know I have a solid shot before I spend the money.

What do you guys think?

Also, anyone know of graduate level transportation planning programs? I do know of some I want to apply to already, but my ears are always open to more options.

Replies to: When should I apply to graduate school?

  • MandalorianMandalorian Registered User Posts: 1,414 Senior Member
    You might as well take the GRE, those scores are good for 5 years. Apply and see what happens is probably the best advice. Spring admissions depend entirely on the program you are looking at, but they are not common.
  • hisllamahisllama Registered User Posts: 104 Junior Member
    Talk to your major/department advisor, helping you with this is part of their job description. Or a professor you like. I ended up applying to a couple schools my thesis advisor suggested because he knew the programs there would match my interests.
    If you are hesitant about having done enough, I'd suggest you write a Statement of Purpose as if you were applying for Fall 2018 and have someone take a look at it. That way you can judge for yourself while writing it if you feel like you can present a strong enough case for admission to grad school or if you need to wait to get more experience. And having a professor or advisor look at it will also give you a good handle on where you stand.

    But definitely take the GRE if you are considering grad school at all.
  • SpaceshipSpaceship Registered User Posts: 326 Member
    edited August 6
    I plan on scheduling the GRE after my next paycheck. I want to do it early this fall.

    The idea of writing the statement of purpose soon is interesting. I've been thinking a bit about how to explain my GPA in one. I can pin my GPA on several factors, because the last two years have been a mess that has really kept me from doing all I could in school, but I don't know if my GPA is so low I need to call it out, or if I want to disclose the whole mess that's been going on. Or that I have autism and ADHD, which the last two years have exacerbated.

    I guess it would boil down to "Because of autism and an abusive childhood, I've always had a need to please my superiors, and an inability to see when I have grounds to say when something doesn't work for me, and my GPA has been lower than it could be because I felt obligated to cover every possible crisis for my employer, even if it meant putting off schoolwork, and I had to learn that I can say no and not get fired, or get my hours cut, or pegged as a bad employee" or whatever. Or bring in that my first Senior year was when a whole storm of family drama hit, which ended with me removing my mother from my life completely (and I do feel a lot better after that).

    Really, though, the more I think, the more I doubt going to graduate school straight out of university is a good idea. I think that, given the massive stress of the last couple years and how long I've been in school (at graduation I'll have 1.5 years Job Corps, 2 years community college, and 3 years university, and I take full time class loads and work during summer vacations), I'm getting a bit burnt. And, while I know that urban planning and GIS are what I want to do, I can vacillate a bit between whether shipping, rail transit, or historic preservation is the right path for me to pursue in graduate school. I also wanted to study in Europe, and European master's courses seem to love candidates with work experience. All of these points, and I can't really think of a benefit to going to grad school next year instead of waiting. It'd be good for me to take a break from school after getting my BAs, work a couple years in my field, and then look at graduate school with a better eye towards what I need.
  • hisllamahisllama Registered User Posts: 104 Junior Member
    It sounds like you've gotten a handle on things.
    I've been told that below a 3.0 is when you should talk about your GPA in an SOP, higher than that and it ends up sounding whiny. If you do talk about your GPA, try not to make it seem like you are making excuses. Basically own your situation and gear it more towards how whatever happened to result in a subpar GPA is a closed chapter in your life and won't affect your performance in graduate school. I am not saying your current explanation is wrong or anything, I am just relaying advice I've gotten.
    I took a couple years off between undergrad and graduate school and don't regret my decision at all. I was similarly burnt out from studying and had no idea what I wanted to specialize in within my field. Working also allowed me to save money towards grad school and it kind of canceled out some of my undergrad GPA that was below what it should be. I could basically build the argument that despite what is on my transcript, my peers/coworkers/boss think I'm competent and know what I am talking about.

    Good luck on the GRE!
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