A Checklist for Your Final Semester of Grad School

During your final semester of grad school, you may be asking yourself, “What’s next?” While in grad school, one tends to focus only on grad school itself and it is hard to see (let alone imagine) the light at the end of the tunnel. With classes, assignments, networking, and the impending job search, things can quickly become overwhelming. Fortunately, a checklist for your final semester of grad school can help keep these priorities straight.

Everyone’s experience with grad school is different. Whether your journey has been two years or eight years, it can be helpful to stay prepared with a checklist for your final semester of grad school. This can help ensure you are on the right track and ready for graduation—as well as for what comes next.

Keep your eye on the prize during your final semester

It’s easy to get excited or overwhelmed as this chapter of your life comes to a close, but it isn’t over yet! Whether your last semester consists of wrapping up a dissertation, thesis, applied project, or something else, you need to remain focused. All of your hard work is for nothing if you don’t cross the finish line. Allow yourself adequate time to finish projects and prepare for presentations or exams. When competing demands surface, give grad school priority if possible. Schedule time for school, but also for leisure and family so you don’t feel too deprived or disconnected.  

Visit your grad school’s career center for guidance

Your advisor and faculty are not your only on-campus resources for advice. Although they may have great tips related to your industry, they may not have enough time to help you actually apply for jobs, review your resume, or practice interview skills. Take advantage of your campus career center. Depending on your school, the career center will likely offer helpful individual or group sessions on many subjects, such as:

  • Writing a resume or cover letter

  • Completing job applications

  • Polishing your interview skills

  • Using social media to seek jobs

Many colleges and universities also host events related to careers, such as on-campus interviewing with prospective employers and job fairs. These services are typically included in the cost of tuition, so take full advantage while you can.

Meet with your grad school advisor

If you haven’t already, you need to see your advisor to confirm you are on track to complete all requirements for graduation. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a dreaded email or phone call about missing required credits. The earlier you talk to your advisor, the better your chances of correcting your course load or any discrepancies that could prevent you from graduating on time. While speaking with your advisor, you may also want to inquire about career opportunities, applying for and attending graduation ceremonies, and any other post-graduation advice.  

[RELATED: 5 Questions Grad Students Should Ask Their Advisors]

Network during your final semester

As a graduate student, you have had several opportunities to connect with peers, faculty, researchers, and other professionals in your field. Now is the time to reach out to your network. Check in to see how they are doing, and what they are working on and where. Let them know you are finishing up grad school and what your future plans are. Also, ask for help if you need it. Know someone who landed a great job where you’d also like to work? Ask him or her for pointers on securing and acing an interview. They might even be able to recommend you to the hiring manager!   

Assess your post-grad financial situation

This checklist item is an important one! While in grad school, it is likely you had some sort of financial aid. Many students have been relying on loans since their undergrad programs. As you exit grad school, you should have a firm understanding of your finances. There are a few questions you might want to ask yourself, such as:

  • How much will you owe in student loans each month?

  • How much do your bills cost?

  • How much money can you reasonably expect to make and what’s the minimum you would need to earn to support yourself?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help get you ready to make important financial decisions. Create a reasonable budget, focus on your job search, and, if needed, identify areas in which you can trim excess expenses.

Earning a graduate degree is an exciting time! Enjoy your last semester and work hard, but also make sure you are preparing yourself to exit grad school successfully. Good luck!


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