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Preparing for Grad School: A checklist 

Catalina Rojas

October 23, 2023

The pursuit of a graduate degree in social impact is an invitation to challenge the status quo and foster meaningful change. This journey requires meticulous preparation to ensure your education aligns with your vision for social impact. Below are key tips to navigate this path, focused on maximizing your potential to become a change-maker.

For much greater support consider joining the PCDN Career Campus, hundreds of human curated job, funding, upskilling, socent and fellowship opportunities, plus community support from peers and leading impact professionals to make the right choices for your impact career path.

Section 1: Aligning Ambitions with the Right Program

Clarifying Your Social Impact Vision

  • Reflect on your long-term goals: Whether it's tackling societal challenges, influencing policy, or driving sustainable initiatives, understanding your objectives is crucial.
  • Dive into research on universities and programs known for their social impact curricula. Platforms like Idealist Grad Fairs, PCDN.global, and Net Impact are valuable resources.
  • Explore deeply the curricula, faculty, career services, alumni networks and much more (we discuss this in much greater detail in other posts and in the Career Campus).

Mastering the Application Narrative

  • Start your application process well in advance to ensure your narrative resonates with your social impact vision. We recommend to start exploring programs and working on your application with ample time.
  • Articulate your passion and vision for social change in your Statement of Purpose.
  • Secure recommendation letters from individuals familiar with your commitment to social impact, ensuring they highlight your potential as a change-maker. This is key and make the process as easy as possible for your recommenders.

Section 2: Sustainable Financial Planning

Investing in Your Impact Journey

  • Explore fellowships and financial aid opportunities dedicated to social impact fields through platforms like the PCDN Career Campus & Profellow.com
  • Consider part-time work or graduate assistantships in organizations driving social change to gain practical experience.
  • Make sure to deeply explore the cost of programs the pros/cons and also the alternatives in terms of programs, different geographic regions and also alternatives to upskilling outside of grad school. If you do take on debt make sure to understand the real market dynamics of your future job prospects in your sector as too many people enroll in programs without doing their market analysis.

Section 3: Holistic Academic Preparation

Building a Resilient Knowledge Foundation

  • Strengthen key skills and knowledge areas crucial for social impact such as data analysis, public policy, or sustainable development.
  • Engage with seminal texts and contemporary publications within your chosen field to build a solid academic foundation.

Section 4: Networking and Professional Advancement

Forging Impactful Alliances

Section 5: Navigating Standardized Tests

Strategizing Test Preparations

  • Prepare for standardized tests like the GRE or GMAT, focusing on sections most pertinent to social impact programs. Although the number of programs that require these are decreasing.
  • Utilize resources like Khan Academy and ProFellow for test preparation guidance and fellowship opportunities.

Section 6: Relocation and Sustainable Living

Transitioning Towards Impact

  • Consider relocating to cities with thriving social impact communities.
  • Explore university-provided housing or residences close to social impact hubs to immerse yourself in a like-minded community.

Conclusion: Your Pathway to Impact

The road to a social impact graduate degree is laden with opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute to meaningful change. By harnessing a clear vision, securing the right resources, and building a supportive network, you are well-poised to embark on this transformative journey.

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