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The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

TIMES ARE CHANGING — FAFSA announced changes to its filing system in February.
Editorial — The "better" FAFSA
North Wind Editorial BoardFebruary 27, 2024

Grad school 101: applying, financing and advice

Peter Smedley/NW THE NEXT STEP– Kyra Saflarski, senior, psychology major, walks up the flight of stairs at Presque Isle, symbolizing what comes after undergraduate college.

Graduate school programs are the next step in pursuing advanced education. For students considering taking this leap, a clear path and clear goals are just a few of the things to evaluate when looking at schools. 

There are many professions that require graduate school and advanced education past a bachelor’s degree that include doctors, therapists, lawyers and upper management positions. Some require up to a doctoral degree, but a graduate program is the beginning of furthering education. 

The first step in the graduate school process is to prepare for the Graduate Record Exam or the Graduate Management Admissions Test, a test that is primarily used for business schools. Heather Pickett, Director of Graduate Enrollment and Marketing at NMU, recommends allowing up to three months of preparation before taking the exam. 

“Accommodations may also be made for students with documented learning disabilities,” Pickett stated. “That process should be taken care of well beforehand.” 

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By going to and creating an account, students can set up a testing date and take up to two practice tests before the exam. NMU Professor Dr. Andy Po holds GRE prep sessions weekly, Monday and Thursdays from 5:10 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Jamrich 2317.

Most graduate school applications are open from December through February, although according to Pickett, NMU along with a few other schools have later application dates open past February.

“Some programs have rolling admissions, which means their applications don’t close and open, and they can begin to review applicants as soon as they are submitted,” Pickett said. “Because of this, it’s a good idea to start your application process in earnest around September.”

When looking for specific schools and programs there’s much to consider. Northeastern University has an outline of 7 factors to consider while researching schools that include taking inventory of passions and goals, researching different options, considering career goals, making sure the program fits your lifestyle, considering finances, and getting in touch with faculty. 

Pickett stresses finding schools that fit specific needs; graduate admission professionals often refer to this process as the fit and match. While tempted to look at big-name universities, Pickett discourages this.

 “Obviously reputable schools, name recognition isn’t everything. In fact, the University of Texas at Denton has one of the best jazz programs in the country,” Pickett said.

While graduate school may have daunting financial burdens, there are plenty of financial aid opportunities. Federal financial aid is available for graduate students, and schools also offer aid in the forms of teaching, research and administration assistants in return for tuition remission or stipends. Kathryn Bianga, a May 2020 graduate of NMU’s Master of Business Administration, worked as a graduate assistant in the College of Business to help pay her way through grad school. 

“I was able to apply and get awarded a graduate assistantship in my department,” Bianga said. “I worked for the university while attending the program in exchange for some pretty significant tuition coverage.”

Many schools offer these programs, and Bianga wishes more students knew about these types of opportunities. NMU offers positions for graduate students, found on Handshake through a MyNMU account. Scholarships are also available for many programs, and should not be overlooked, especially for competitive applicants. 

“Overall, I think grad school is 100 percent worth the investment and time,” Bianga said. “But at the end of the day, building a network of contacts is just as important … especially in the Upper Peninsula or rural areas.”

There will be an upcoming Graduate School Application help session hosted by Heather Pickett on Wednesday, April 14 at 3 p.m. The event will be virtual and will be available for students to sign up on the Hub soon. 

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