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Grad school week encourages students to continue their education

October 3, 2018

When Heather Jourdeans (a UWRF alumna and a graduate record exam (GRE) preparation guide) graduated in 1997, she certainly hadn’t considered a graduate degree.

“Never. Never, but college was a lot of fun and overall, I liked the freedom you had as a student and the more focused coursework,” she said. “Continuing my education felt like the natural next step.”

For students currently considering that ‘natural next step’, UWRF provides an annual graduate school event in the last week of September. These events are public to all grades, in which students can speak with recruiters from various graduate schools and attend workshops such as “Mastering the Graduate School Personal Statement,” hosted this year by Melissa Wilson, director of Career Services; “Demystifying the Graduate School Application Process,” led by the University of Minnesota; and the “GRE Strategy Workshop,” which is partnered with the Outreach and Continuing Education program.

The workshops offer strategies for success by way of answering frequently asked questions or reviewing exam and application formats.

“These courses can give you a more personalized prep than I think just a simple textbook could offer you,” Jourdeans says of the “GRE Strategy Workshop.”

According to Angela Whitaker, director of the Outreach and Continuing Education program, there are numerous advantages to attending graduate school.

“The data does support that investing in a graduate degree has the biggest return on investment, said Whitaker.”

Leanne Van Allen, director of CBE Graduate Programs, agrees, stating, “Many fields require graduate degrees and oftentimes, as we see for our students, they’re able to get ahead of their competition. It opens up career opportunities.”

The application process can be complex. According to Whitaker, the process varies from school to school and often, program to program.

“Some programs do require a graduate school exam score of a certain level,” Whitaker said. For instance, the GRE exam is standard for most students, while the GMAT is more specific to business programs and the LSAT is specific to law school. “The process is a little different from place to place, but ultimately, it’s transcripts, probably a personal statement, letters of reference, potentially a resume and, in some cases, job experience.”

UW River Falls’ programs are notoriously well respected, which is reflected in the competitive admission processes. Some are limited as to how many students they can serve each year. “As an example,” Van Allen elaborates. “With the MBA (Master of Business Administration) program, we are accredited by the AACSB; that’s the highest level of accreditation that a business school can receive. In the immediate Twin Cities, there are only three institutions with that level of accreditation. St. Thomas and the U of M are the other two outside of River Falls. So, it is a very prestigious level, but it’s also a mark of quality in a program.”

For assistance in taking this major step forward in education, Career Services at UWRF provides essential information that can help plan the next steps for your future.

“They have a library and a website with various links. At the Continuing Education office, we do offer free workshops for each of those tests, and a deeper dive into some coursework, if you were interested,” said Whitaker. The services, Whitaker mentioned, are non-credit, but have shown to be excellent learning opportunities.

“Ultimately,” Whitaker says of the Graduate School Week, “we’re all here to serve the students and any traffic that comes through here during Graduate School Week. What we try to do is provide a landscape of options to get all of our students thinking about what those next steps might be – we’re here to support them through the process.” In the end, the recruiters, workshops, and career services are “all in it together supporting students as they explore graduate school options.”

Post-baccalaureate student Laura Nolte is thankful for it. She’s majoring in communication science and speech-language pathology, a program in which most careers require a master’s degree. “[These events] have been very helpful,” Nolte adds. “They’ve helped me get a better idea of what I’m going to need to do to get everything in order to apply to grad school.”

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