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Advising Interactive Worksheet: Post-Undergraduate Study

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You may know that you want to attend graduate or professional school, but you’re not sure for what. Or, perhaps you think you want to attend but aren’t quite sure that you want to do so immediately after college. Or, perhaps you’re not sure what graduate school is or why you might want to go there.

Continued studies after you graduate from college allow you to:

  • Acquire depth of knowledge in a specialized area;
  • Develop an expertise in a particular area of interest;
  • Connect with faculty and peers who have similar academic interests.

Post-undergraduate study is delivered in many different program or degree types. Most common are:

  • Doctoral degrees (Ph.D.): Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy degrees, are typically the highest degrees given in an academic field and typically include a significant research project that culminates in a thesis or dissertation. Programs vary in length, but average around 5 or 6 years of study.
  • Professional degrees (for example, M.D., D.O., J.D., M.B.A.): These types of programs allow one to earn a professional degree in an area such as medicine, law, or business. They may include relevant coursework and experiences in professional fields to prepare students either to enter into a career in a related area, or to prepare for even further specialization.
  • Master’s degrees (for example, M.A., M.S.): Typically these programs require 1 or 2 years of coursework and may or may not include a research thesis. Some master’s degrees are designed to lead to additional degree programs. At Stanford, many departments have coterminal master’s programs that simultaneously allow you to study at the graduate level along with your undergraduate studies. But, you should consider that a program at another university might offer you different options or perspectives on your intended area of study.
  • Continued education, non-degree: There are many institutions that offer courses for continued education, such as language courses, writing courses, or courses to develop a specific skill, such as the use of specific computer software.

Students who are considering post-undergraduate study can begin exploring by:

  • Talking with your academic advisor about your interests;
    • Interests can change and develop. This dialogue is crucial for honing your intellect.
  • Consulting with faculty in areas that are related to your interests;
    • Faculty are the experts in their fields, and they have walked this path before. You should ask questions and be open to their input and guidance.
  • Identifying alumni for informational interviews through Stanford Alumni Mentoring (SAM);
  • Exploring research, volunteer, or internship opportunities in a related field;
    • Speak with your Academic Advisor to learn more about how to get started on this!

Download our Interactive Worksheet

Academic Advising is a planning process that helps students to approach their education in an organized and meaningful way… 

—National Academic Advising Association 

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