Thinking about applying to graduate school? Here are some points to keep in mind.
- Marks count: it is difficult to get into most graduate programs with less than a B+ average, and often it will need to be higher.
- Course credits are counted differently from one university to another: one credit at University “A” might be two credits at University “B” or three credits at University “C.” Therefore, you need to ensure that you have the right number and right kind of credits for any program you hope to take. By planning ahead early in your undergraduate years, you will save yourself from having to take extra courses to meet another university’s requirements. In Ontario, for instance, most universities require either 20 or 40 credits for a BA. The amount of work students do is the same, but the universities count the credits differently. A course that is one-term long may count either as one or one-half of a credit, depending upon the institution’s calculation methods. (Ryerson counts a one-term course as one credit in a 40-credit degree.)
- Good literary skills matter: if you do not write clear, effective, and grammatically correct prose (and if you cannot read deeply and analytically), you subvert your chances for success. Therefore, use your undergraduate years to develop and refine a professional written voice and hone your reading and analytical skills. You also should use the opportunities in seminars and other such contexts to develop your oral communications and presentation capabilities.
- Commitment beyond the classroom is important: many programs, such as those that lead to teaching or museum work, will want to see clear evidence that you are engaged in the profession beyond your academic training. You can demonstrate this through paid and volunteer work of relevance to the interests of the program to which you would like to apply.
- You need to follow the rules: programs have deadlines for applying, require references, and expect you to fill out your application completely and correctly. Also, learn how to format and write proper application letters, design effective resumes, and otherwise present yourself competently and professionally. Give the people you wish to write letters of reference lots of notice to do so before the deadlines.
- Going to different universities is often good: some students think they should complete all of their degree training at one university, and while that is acceptable and good, it is equally desirable to go to more than one institution if you wish to obtain more than one degree. You will broaden your experience and learn from a wider range of faculty than if you remain in one place. Should you obtain three degrees, then you almost certainly should attend more than one university. If you pursue a PhD, go to the very best university you can for your subject and research focus.
- Think broadly: consider not only Ontario universities, but opportunities to study in other areas of Canada and around the world.
- It can be difficult to have the qualifications earned in one jurisdiction accepted in another, so it is important to investigate this matter if you plan to study in one place and work in another.
- Being competent in French is a good thing to work in Canada (including if you are interested in working with the federal government). Other languages are valuable depending upon your career goals and any international aspirations you have, to say nothing of the personal rewards of being bi- or multilingual. As well, some graduate programs will require you to pass a second-language proficiency test.