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You can prepare somewhat for this academic culture shock by taking undergraduate classes that demand higher-level thinking. Take courses that teach you how to do research in your field, that ask you to summarize and synthesize advanced or theoretical material. If you can, do some original research at whatever level you have obtained. The object here is to learn to think for yourself while you are an undergraduate; if you do so, you will have a much easier time of it in graduate school. Graduate school professors want your creative analysis and argument, not your regurgitation.
5. When I met professors, were there some that would be good advisors?
You probably won't be able to deal with this question until after you start program. What it boils down to is this: Choose your advisors carefully! They may make or break you. It's best to find someone in your specialization who you both personally like and professionally admire; if you can't, choose someone who you have high regard for professionally, and who you can tolerate personally. You don't have to be, and probably shouldn't be best friends with your advisor. Mutual respect and civility are what's necessary.
As you choose an advisor for that all-important master's thesis or like, ask yourself following questions about each professor you are interested in: Do you and other students whose judgment you trust believe this person to be professionally competent and knowledgeable in field? Do you and others believe him/her to be a good teacher, able to explain problems well and help students improve their work? If you can't answer both questions positively for person in question, choose someone else. Your choice may decide course of your academic career.
6. Do I have a good knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses?
This question is implied in most of questions above. It is really most crucial. Without a good knowledge of self, you will probably not succeed in graduate school. Indeed, you may not realize your own potential in your life generally. And if you do succeed in your coursework without this kind of wisdom, any happiness you attain is more a matter of undeserved good fortune than a result of thought-out, focused effort.
What subject areas are you deeply interested in? What kinds of problems are you good at solving (Numerical? Symbolic? Literary? Artistic?) How well do you handle social interaction? How self-confident are you? How long can you remain focused on a course of study? How much do you rely on your teachers? Do you like to do original research? Do you learn slowly and methodically, or quickly by leaps of intuition? Do you want to specialize in a narrow sub-field of your specialty or do you want to have general knowledge of your field? Do you like subject matter to be black-and-white or do you delight in debating gray areas? Are you detail-oriented? Do you like to learn by yourself, with a partner, or in a group setting? Do you prefer deadlines, or do you work best with no time pressure?
Ask yourself these questions and others. Look at hobbies you most enjoy, types of work and work settings that you like best, types of life experiences that you gravitate towards. Take an aptitude test and study results. No answer is wrong; you want to understand yourself in order to make decisions that are most appropriate for you. In summary, first look for patterns of behavior and thought that are intrinsic to your own personal style. Then match that style to styles of graduate programs you are interested in, and ask yourself if they fit. If they don't, choose another program.
Conclusion. Many students choose graduate programs based on physical proximity or their professors' recommendations. These are wise considerations, but they shouldn't be your only ones. This paper has addressed some of other issues pertinent to your choice which I hope you will consider as well. I strongly believe that questions above are essential because they focus on YOU as starting point. Choosing right graduate school should not be a haphazard decision; you should come out of application process knowing more about yourself and what you expect out of programs you selected. Then you will be able to fill out your applications with confidence, drop them into mailbox, and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Andrea Jussim is an experienced writer with experience in teaching and research. She entered a prestigious 5-year Ph.D. program immediately after completing her undergraduate studies, but left with an M.A. and her sanity two years later.