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Is it possible to switch fields in graduate school?

Monday, October 5, 2015
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Is it possible to switch fields in graduate school?
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By the time people reach graduate school, you would think they are set on their chosen career path. However, this isn't always the case. Sometimes, interest in a certain specialization can diminish while studying a subject in depth as an undergraduate. This may happen a month after graduation or during the last few semesters in college. Regardless of when it happens, what do you do? Is it possible to switch fields, or is it simply too late? Follow these tips to know whether or not you should make a change.

"Participating in an internship program will allow you to get an in-depth look at a specific area of study."

Get some experience
Before making the switch, it's important to get an internship either in your current field of study or the new field in which you are interested to find out whether it's right for you. Unlike taking classes, participating in an internship program during your undergraduate years will allow you to get an in-depth look at a specific area of study. You'll get hands-on experience and an up-close look at a career — or various careers — within this field. If you've completed a few internships and don't like what you see or decide it's not for you, that's OK. However, don't make any rash decisions to switch fields without this experience under your belt. Simply studying a topic in school is usually not enough to truly learn what a career may be like in that field. Plus, many graduate schools favor those with professional experience. So if the internship helps you decide that it is the right path for you after all, you'll have an easier time getting into the graduate program of your choice.

Talk to a professor
If you're questioning your selected field of study, it might be a good idea to talk to a trusted professor. Discuss your concerns with him or her about your lack of interest. Find out what suggestions the professor might have and learn more about his or her personal experience in the field. There may be a story to share or advice to be given that can help you make a more sound decision. Or, after hearing your point of view, he or she may encourage you to change fields. If you do decide to change fields and are required to transfer schools, you'll need recommendations from professors and can use his or her help.

Choosing whether you should switch fields can be a tough decision. Choosing whether you should switch fields can be a tough decision.

Make an impression
If you decide that you're going to switch fields, it's important that you go above and beyond to make a great impression. Whether you're applying to law school or a psychology program, a personal statement will most likely be required. When you prepare this statement for your graduate school application, make sure it's not only well-written, but that it shows why you're pursuing a new area. Make connections between what you learned in your undergraduate program and the field you're currently interested in, even if it's a big jump. Proving that you've learned valuable information and skills that you can apply in graduate school can prove you're worthy of a spot in that program.

Keep a bridge
Whether you choose to transfer between two graduate programs or you're simply graduating from an undergraduate program, it's crucial to keep the connections you made during your time in school. Stay in contact with friendly professors and advisors along the way. Though they may not directly be affiliated with your field anymore, you may still need them for recommendations and advice. They may also be your colleagues down the road, so it's best to transition with respect and grace.


By Monique Smith

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