Making the decision to pursue graduate study requires thought and planning.
Before you decide that graduate school is the best choice for you, take the time to answer the following questions, and do your research, too.
- What are my post-graduate career goals?
- How can graduate school help me further my career goals?
- What do I want to study?
- When is the best time to attend graduate school – right after college or a few years after?
- Should I attend part-time or full-time?
- Do other life factors play a role in my decision to attend graduate school?
- How do I afford graduate school?
Do your research by talking with alumni in your field of interest, your faculty, and the Career Services staff. Conduct online research, and, if possible, visit the schools of interest. Talk with admissions staff, faculty, and current graduate students about the programs of interest.
If you determine that graduate school is the right decision for you, the information below will help you through the next steps.
Graduate School Guides: A great general guide is Peterson’s.
Peterson’s Guide offers an Application Timeline.
Entrance Exams: Many schools require entrance exams as part of the application process. Most graduate programs require you to take the GREs. There are several specialized tests for specific professional programs. Business graduate programs often require the GMATs while the LSATs are required for law school. MCATs are required for medical school, and dental schools required the DATs. You should talk with the schools you are applying to in order to ensure that you take the correct tests.
There are many resources to assist you in understanding the exam process. Start with Kaplan for an excellent guide with practice tests, testing locations, and fees.
Personal Statement: The personal statement is a critical part of your application process. The statement must be clear, succinct, and show that you have a definite sense of what you want to do and passion for the field of study. Be sure the essay reflects your writing abilities; and is typo-free. Ask a faculty member, a staff person in Career Services, or the Writing Center to assist you with editing.
Recommendation Letters: These letters are written by professionals (often faculty or supervisors who know you well) who can speak about your ability to be successful candidate. Letters are often written for graduate school but they can be written on your behalf for jobs too. Be sure to talk with your faculty and supervisors well in advance of any application deadlines to ensure that you give them ample time to write and submit your letters. Often these letters can be submitted directly to the school via email or an online recommendation system. It is your responsibility to ensure the person writing the recommendation has the necessary information to submit the letter.
Financial Aid: Fully-funded graduate opportunities are rare. Financial aid for graduate school usually includes scholarships, assistantships, fellowships, and loans. You need to do your research on funding and start by requesting financial aid information from the institutions in which you are interested. Be advised that application deadlines for many forms of aid and assistantship positions can be earlier than the deadlines for applying for admission to your program. Peterson’s offers general information regarding graduate school financial aid.