Hiatt Career Center

Three considerations about planning to go to graduate school during COVID

hats thrown in the air at graduation

By now, everyone has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic in some way. For students, this continues to present many different questions about what actions to take. One decision that may be up for consideration is whether to apply and go to graduate school. Though you should always weigh your options under normal circumstances, it’s important to be well-informed of changes that may impact the process.

First, consider if graduate school is the right decision for you. 

Graduate school is not recommended as a way to avoid a job search. When applying, you will be asked on your application to share how you have prepared for graduate study, an area in which you intend to focus and goals as they relate to your degree. You should be confident in what you want to study and why, and not commit just because you believe it might be a “good fit” at this time.

It’s also crucial to weigh the cost of graduate school as it relates to time and money. Be realistic about what you can afford and how long it will take you to pay back any loans you may have to take out. Graduate school should not be a way to avoid or pause previous financial obligations as they will be still waiting for you further down the line. 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is a graduate degree necessary for my desired field of interest?
  • Is a graduate degree necessary to make growth/make a career change?
  • Am I passionate about a certain area and what to continue to learn more?

Second, explore the application process (and the impact the crisis has on it, if any).

Program Applications: Some schools have extended deadlines or waived requirements to encourage applications. If you are interested in a particular program, visit the school’s website to learn more about program requirements and deadlines. 

Financial Aid Applications: Though waived requirements might make it easier to apply to programs, financial aid funds may be affected as some schools base awards on standardized test scores. Depending on the application cycle of your program, merit aid funds might already be exhausted and programs that offer tuition remission in the form of assistantships, may also already be filled. If financial aid is a strong consideration for you, contact the program directly. Don’t let this sway your decision to apply though as many schools want to ensure students who are interested have access to their programs. 

Spring 2020 Grades on Your Application: A number of schools have already stated that they will provide some flexibility with spring 2020 grades. Most will accept P/F, S/U, and letter grades for that semester, knowing that students’ schedules, options for grades and course teaching have been greatly affected by the pandemic.

Generally speaking, all other aspects of applications are the same. Be well prepared to present a strong statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, transcripts and any other required documents as usual.

Third, be prepared for changes in the format of instruction.

It is still too early to know exactly whether instruction and university activities will be offered on campus, virtually or a combination of both. For you as the applicant, it’s important to think about how this impacts your field of study and overall learning preferences. Continue to be in touch with your school of interest and be prepared to adapt if necessary. If you are an international student, you will want to also keep a close eye on global policies about travel restrictions and visas as they are constantly changing. 

For additional information and resources regarding graduate school, review Hiatt’s Graduate and Law School section of our website as well as the Academic Services’ Pre-Health Advising. Students are also advised to make an appointment with Hiatt for assistance in exploring options and creating application materials. Make your appointment in Handshake, here.