Graduate Admissions

Summer: Time to Consider Grad School

–Post by Dr. Kristen Willmott

We love this time of year because our past students are on to their next exciting adventures! There were some pretty amazing commencement speakers who have offered valuable, insightful advice to the college classes of 2017 in the past two weeks. Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke about the importance of finding your voice and the value in education at Wheelock College, just across town from our offices in Concord, MA. Mark Zuckerberg spoke at nearby Harvard University on how ”purpose creates true happiness.” CNN news anchor Brooke Baldwin spoke at UNC Chapel Hill on the importance of speaking out against injustice.


If we weren’t so busy working with our rising seniors in high school we’d snap up seats at college graduations throughout the country to cheer on our past students at their college graduations and listen to their amazing commencement speakers. The good news is that we get to connect with many college graduates in our work as we prep them for graduate admissions. Many college graduates and rising seniors are considering their next steps, just as working professionals are assessing if a graduate degree may take them to the next level in their careers.

As a former Admissions and Financial Aid Officer for an Ivy League graduate school, and one who left a full-time job to obtain a PhD, I have seen firsthand the benefits of a graduate degree.

That said, it’s important to consider your targeted field, attempt to gain some graduate level coursework if possible, consider the time and money sacrifices that would occur with a graduate school pathway, and explore targeted programs well before applying.


  1. Pursue free online courses. Are you considering a Master’s in Sustainability Studies but not 100% certain? Take a few months to complete a free online noncredit MIT OpenCourseWare course from the MIT Sloan School of Management to be sure: Leading Profound Innovation for a More Sustainable World. This can become a resume entry for you as well as help you pinpoint if studying this topic for 1-2 years is truly what you want to do.
  2. Take it one step further and obtain credit in a fall course online through the Harvard Extension School. Did you know they offer Active Learning Weekends where you can obtain 2 credits in 3 days on campus? Let’s say you’re considering a Master’s degree program from American University in Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs. Before you jump into the grad school admissions process and commit (upon acceptance) to a year-long program at American, consider taking a two credit course from the Harvard Extension School to earn credit in this field first. You could, for example, take the class Emergency Ethics: Confronting a Global Crisis as part of a Harvard Extension School Active Learning weekend (it was Oct. 28-30 in 2016 and fall 2017 dates are TBD) and earn credits as well as confirm your desire for a degree in this field.
  3. Consider a research conference. Could you attend and learn about the work of current students in your targeted grad school program? For example, William and Mary has an annual Grad Research Symposium.
  4. Join a professional association in your field to explore the degrees that leaders in the association have and to gain further exposure to your field. EX: membership in the Association of Art Museum Curators. As their website notes, benefits of membership include:
  • Networking opportunities with curators in varying fields, career levels, and organization size
  • Eligibility to attend Annual Conference, the largest known gathering of curators and a unique opportunity for networking and professional development
  • Educational webinars for professional development and additional programs
  • Program participation eligibility, including Mentorship Program, and grants, and awards for travel, research and development
  • Ability view and post classifieds for curatorial positions on AAMC’s website
  • Annual subscription to our e-newsletter
  • Comprehensive and detailed searchable list of member curators
  • Interactive member only section of that includes a private membership discussion board, resource documents, and archived programs, including all webinars and conference sessions
  • Ability to list exhibitions available for travel
  • Access to the digital version of the Professional Practices for Art Museum Curators and AAMC Compensation Review
  • Opportunity to be part of a unified voice of curators responding to major issues affecting the profession

grad school goal


The goal is to determine your reasons for pursuing graduate school BEFORE the admissions process starts THEN work to boost your admissions odds and confirm your decision with some classes and exposure to your targeted field.

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