10 Tips for Preparing for Graduate School

Thinking of applying to graduate school? This is an exciting time for you! As a graduate student at UBC Okanagan, you’ll join a diverse and inclusive community of people from around the world who are pursuing advanced degrees and innovative research and scholarship.

That being said, this can also be a stressful time, with many factors to consider as you gather the documentation to complete your application and prepare to start your degree.

To help make this process a little easier, we’ve reached out to our Admissions & Records team to get their advice on the most important things to consider as you prepare for graduate school.

1. Know the “why”

Ask yourself “why do I want to pursue this degree?” That answer can help guide you through your studies. Although that answer may change (and that’s okay), it’s important to have some direction about what you’d like to achieve with your degree. This can help shape your research and the networking and professional development opportunities you pursue.

2. Gather Documentation

Have all of your post-secondary transcripts available in advance of applying. This includes transcripts from any exchange programs you have completed and transcripts from any courses completed, even if you did not attain a credential from that institution. For international applicants, UBC has a guide available listing comparable credentials from different countries as well as grade requirements from those countries.

3. Maximize your references

Plan for your letters of recommendation and ensure they are appropriate individuals to be recommending you for graduate school (a past professor, an employer, etc.). Choose referees who know your skills and experience best, and can communicate your ability to succeed as a graduate student. People often downplay the importance of referees but selecting the right referees for your application is essential to being successful. Check the website for the rules around what is considered an acceptable referee.  Reach out to your referees early as individuals may be on leave, or away when you need the letter. Have a conversation with your referee about the reference and if there is anything specific that needs to be included.

4. Identify potential supervisors

Approach prospective supervisors before applying. Most programs require this. It is okay if you don’t have a set research plan when you are approaching prospective supervisors. Be patient when awaiting replies from prospective supervisors. Faculty members are busy and it may take them a while to respond. You must communicate professionally & respectfully with staff and faculty.

5. Talk Money

Before you start your program, know how you are going to fund your degree (tuition, living expenses, fees). Plan and don’t rely on the possibility of scholarships and awards. Understand the details of your funding sources (is there a time limit on the funding? Is the funding tied to a specific area of research?). When you contact prospective supervisors ask them about potential funding opportunities. Additionally, does your program allow you to work full-time or part-time while you complete it? Are there employment opportunities included in the program (ex. teaching assistantships, research assistantships, internships)?

6. Be a self-starter

At the graduate level, there is not the same level of academic advising available that you may be used to from an undergraduate program. You will need to be self-motivated as a graduate student – do your research, understand your program and its requirements, seek out deadlines, and review policies. 

7. Ensure your application is complete

Ensure that your application is complete and all components, including references, are submitted by the deadline. Proofread your application components before applying (ex. CV, statement of intent).

8. Brush up on academic integrity

You must have a solid understanding of academic integrity and proper citations as a graduate student. This is especially important if you are coming from another country where citing requirements and practices may have been different.

9. Know your program

You must understand the requirements of your program to ensure that you are progressing on track. What are the course requirements? Is there flexibility within the program to explore various areas of interest?

10. Professional development

This is your graduate degree, and you can decide what you want from it. Take advantage of workshops and events that will help you develop and enhance your skillsets. This includes opportunities to network with peers (in your program and beyond) and faculty members inside and outside of your field.

For academic advising and program related questions, applicants can contact their program directly. List of programs 

For study permit and immigration inquiries, please contact International Programs and Services.

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