Graduate School Information

Is graduate school right for you? Graduate school should not be an alternative to a job, but a necessity for accomplishing your goals and putting you on your preferred career path. If you have a clear sense of your career direction, and if an advanced degree is required for entry into that field, then applying to graduate school makes perfect sense. Before applying, make sure to:

  • Clarify and identify your interests and career goals
  • Decide on the degree that will assist you in meeting those goals
  • Locate graduate programs that meet your needs

Applying to Graduate School

Once you've decided that graduate school is right for you, it is important to understand the next step: Applying. There are "key" things that graduate schools are looking for in applicants and you need to make sure you represent yourself in the most positive light through the entire application process.

  1. Investigate Specific Programs - Thoroughly research the schools that fit your area of concentration. Take a look at the scope of their programs, investigate their requirements, find out about financial aid options and processes, and so forth. Get the lay of the land. Graduate school admissions recruiters want to see that you are genuinely interested in attending their institution, so learn all you can and make an informed decision about the schools you would like to attend. 
  2. Target Schools - How do you select which ones to apply to? Apply to three tiers of programs:
    1. Two "safe" schools
    2. Two "probably/maybe" schools
    3. Two "reach" schools (most competitive)
  3. Graduate Entrance Exams
    1. Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
    2. Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
    3. Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
    4. Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
    5. Dental Admission Test (DAT)
  4. Selection Criteria - What makes you stand out?
    1. Grades – important for competitive schools
    2. Entrance exams scores
    3. Essay – How have you prepared yourself for graduate school?
    4. Recommendations – very important
    5. Work sample – research papers, etc.
    6. Interviews – not always required
    7. Experience in field – varies with programs
  5. Essay tips - Writing an essay that will tip the scales in your favor.
    1. Use graduate level language to explain undergraduate accomplishments
    2. Name drop and show your knowledge, i.e. name professors at your targeted institutions, mention research specialties, etc.
    3. Name advisors (under the guidance of)
    4. Name a few major thinkers in the field
    5. Exposure to field – trace why you’re interested in the field, and what related experiences you’ve had.
    6. Goals – for future, short and long term
    7. Research interests – specifics
    8. Address the school – What attracted you to this particular program?
    9. Prove your qualifications – Discuss concrete experiences that show your abilities and qualities. Address weak areas and what you are doing to strengthen them.
  6. Recommendations - How to get the letter of recommendation that will "WOW" them.
    1. Meet with the professor - "Would you be comfortable making a strong recommendation for my admittance into...?"
    2. Provide materials - Updated resume, unofficial transcript, specific form (type top section and waive right to view, plus stamped addressed envelope with your name and name of the institution on the front. Talk about Career aspiration/goals, information about the program you are applying, information that needs to be emphasized, and your contact information.
    3. Give reference three to four weeks to write recommendations - follow up by email if necessary
    4. Letters may be from non-professors - if allowed on application materials
    5. Follow up with a thank you note
  7. The Interview:
    1. Know the program, the faculty, and research
    2. Be prepared to answer questions. Examples: Why have you chosen this area? Why have you chosen to study at this institution? Where else are you applying? What program is your first choice? If you are not accepted, what are you going to do? What is a good book you have read lately?
    3. Be prepared to address areas of academic weakness.
    4. Be prepared to discuss your background and experience as well as post degree plans.
    5. Participate in a mock interview.
  8. Get Noticed:
    1. Communicate with professors at graduate programs – very important
    2. Visit programs and professors
    3. Submission of work sample

Resources

My Graduate School is a site with information for anyone looking to get into graduate school.

Learning Express Library is a great place for practice graduate tests.