Preparing for ‘higher’ higher education


It’s never too early to start thinking about your future after undergraduate life.

It’s fall again and undergraduates across the nation are returning to school in droves. Whether you’re a wide-eyed first year or a jaded fourth year, it may be time to start planning your life after undergraduate school as application and testing deadlines are coming up in the next few months.

Applying and preparing for school, whether that be medical school, law school or a liberal arts Master’s program, can be incredibly stressful, time consuming and frustrating.

First step: the tests.

The Tests
Senior Jenny Lamphere from Highlands Ranch is majoring in English and has been preparing to take both the GRE and the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) test since June.

“I’m taking the GRE on Oct. 27 and the LSAT on Oct. 2,” said Lamphere who plans to take both tests to prepare for either a Master’s in international studies or a law degree in international human rights law.

The GRE is the Graduate Record Examination test that liberal arts students need to take if they are considering continuing their education after graduation and is now offered in a computer based format.

As many students may remember from taking the SAT and ACT, these tests are as much about knowing the material as they are about knowing the test.

Senior Sam Brock from Safety Harbor, Fla. is majoring in molecular biology and is currently filling out nine secondary applications for medical school while taking a full course load. Secondary applications are sent out from medical schools to ask applicants further questions about their activities and personality after passing the primary application which looks mainly at grade point average and test scores.

As such, Brock highly suggests taking a preparatory course to maximize test scores on the MCAT, or the Medical College Admissions Test in order to obtain an invitation to fill out a secondary application to medical school.

“I would say take the class [because] the test is…different. You have to get used to taking them, honestly my number one recommendation is take practice tests because you have to get used to taking a four-hour test; build the mental endurance and just know what you’re in for,” said Brock.

While the GRE and MCAT prep courses are an option for many students, the financial cost may prove too burdensome for others.

Lamphere bought two prep books from Kaplan, a company that specializes in preparation and testing materials, for $30 each rather than paying up to $2,000 for a preparatory course.

“I haven’t taken any of the classes because I feel like it isn’t a good use of my money. I know how I study specifically and that kind of thing just doesn’t work for me,” said Lamphere.

But after the testing is over, the outrageous costs associated with getting into graduate, medical or law schools don’t stop.

“I’m sitting at just under $1,000 for the applications themselves. That doesn’t include the $2,000 MCAT prep course,” said Brock.

This is all sans the actual tuition costs associated with upper level education. According to, a website dedicated to helping students find ways to finance their education, graduate students borrow a cumulative debt of between $30,000 to $120,000 and the numbers only go up from there for students pursuing a Master’s or professional degrees.

Despite the strain, Professor of biology and expert on all things medical school, Robert M. Dores encourages students who wish to pursue certain academic fields, including the life sciences, should continue their education.

“If one hopes to have a career in the life sciences at least a MS degree is required. Yes, the job markets are tight, but a student entering a life science Ph.D. graduate program in 2013 will not be on the job market until 2020 or later depending on the amount of postdoctoral training one does after completing a Ph.D.,” said Dores.

When preparing for graduate school, including all the applications and testing that come along with that, it’s good to take advice from those who have gone before you.Dores suggests staying on top of prerequisite courses and other classes that can help students prepare for these tests.

Just like applying for college the first time, volunteering, club participation and other extracurricular activities never hurt an application for a job or for higher education.

“For medical school, dental school and physician assistant programs, do volunteer work. Medical schools and dental schools want to see that an applicant is willing to be engaged in his or her community,” said Dores.

Next month, the Career Center is hosting “Graduating: Now What?” for undergraduate

seniors to attend workshops and panels, as well as network with employers and alumni.

Pre-med student Sam Brock volunteers at a local hospital for four hours a week before class.

There will also be free food, which we know no senior can resist.

Regardless of your plans for graduate school, if this article has terrified you be sure to set up an appointment at the Career Center today to discuss your impending future.

Cost: $160

Upcoming Test:


Cost: $240

Upcoming test: Jan.


Cost: $160

Upcoming test: Dec. 1 and Dec. 3



2 Responses to Preparing for ‘higher’ higher education

  • Katy Owens
    Katy Owens says:

    I really like this article! It is a good read and well written. There is a nice balance between factual information and being something interesting, whether applicable to an individual’s life personally or not. It’s important info for everyone, whether they’re looking into grad school or not, simply because they probably have friends going through the process. I enjoy the little hints of sarcasm and joke, like the comment about irresistible free food. The use of photos and headers are good, I’m glad you put the info about the tests costs and dates as well. Good article!

  • Samantha Selincourt
    Samantha Selincourt says:

    I really enjoyed your article. It was very well written and had a lot of good information and facts but wasn’t overwhelming. I liked how you structured it because even if you aren’t looking into grad school now you can understand the stress and time commitment that the process and testing takes.I really enjoyed at the end how you had the cost and dates for the different tests because I know I personally did not realize how expensive the test alone were. Well done!

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