Graduate School Preparation
Graduate school may enhance opportunities to achieve your professional and/or personal goals. It is a major investment of time, money, and energy. Therefore, it is important to plan carefully and investigate your options.
GradSchools.com – the leading and most comprehensive online graduate school guide to find the best graduate schools and graduate degree programs
GradView.com – Compiled by Hobsons, this site contains program searches, financial aid information, test prep, careers & programs, and articles & advice.
GradSource.com – your essential resources to graduate studies and professional degrees.
GraduateGuide.com – a directory of Graduate Schools in the United States and Canada.
Medical School Comparison
Law Schools Comparison
Business School Comparison
Is Grad School Right for You?
Answer these questions before pursuing graduate school:
- Do you have a clear idea of the career you want to pursue?
- Is a graduate degree a requirement for your career, will it make employment easier, or could it make your job search difficult because you’ll be seen as “overqualified” for your field?
- Who wants you to go to graduate school? Is it in your interests or motivation pushing for the advanced degree – or are you responding to advice from parents or friends?
- What can you do with your B.A. or B.S.? If you’re afraid that there is nothing you can do with your major in history, explore your career choices by making an appointment with Career Development by email.
- Will the time and money you spend on graduate school repay you for money and experience you will earn if you take a job and begin immediately after graduation?
- Is there another avenue for continued learning? For instance, could you gain the marketable skills and knowledge you want through professional seminars and workshops or community college classes?
- If you put off graduate school for three years, are there things you will gain?
I’m not sure what else to do…
- Graduate students are expected to have clearly defined interests and goals – it’s not necessarily the place to “find yourself.”
- If your love of a subject is so great that you want to immerse yourself in study, graduate school may be perfect for you!
I’ll take a year off first…
- Gaining work experience before graduate school can enhance your application credentials.
- Work experience can help define your goals and field of study.
- Some programs will not admit you without prior experience.
- Life happens: relationships, car payments, house payments, responsibilities. One year can turn into ten.
Grad School Admissions Process
FIND THE RIGHT PROGRAM FOR YOU
Interview faculty or professionals in your area of interest. Where did they go? What did they like/dislike about the program? Gather information and possibly gain a letter of reference!
Many websites will help sort graduate schools by program or field of study. Sign up to receive course catalogs, tuition information, etc. Read through college materials carefully.
Narrow the Field
Make a list of your top three requirements for a grad school. Consider:
- Length of program
- Access to faculty
- Student to faculty ratio
- Graduate Assistantship or Fellowship programs
- Research opportunities
- Success of their alumni
- Mission of the institution
As you sort through graduate school information, filter their qualities through your “requirements.” If a school doesn’t match your needs, eliminate them immediately. Keep eliminating options until you have 3-4 schools.
Letters of Recommendation
Find faculty who are credible, fond of your work, and who write well. Give them plenty of time to prepare your letter (fall of senior year is appropriate). Provide them with:
- A current resume
- Reason why you are pursuing a graduate degree
- Stamped envelope and letterhead
- Name, title, school, and address of graduate school “reviewer” – who will be reading the letter and evaluating you for admission.
Have faculty and friends review your essay. Draft and edit. Ensure that your essay is error free. Graduate students need to be excellent writers – show off your skills. Allow yourself plenty of time to complete the essay. Tips for writing a great essay:
- Be yourself – you are looking for a “good match.” You will not do yourself any favors by “pretending.”
- Write a strong opening – share an experience that establishes a connection between you and your subject area. Be specific and use examples, which are more interesting than general statements.
- Tell how your story intersects with their story. Answer the question, “Why are you a good match for the program?” Use the catalog and research of the program faculty as a resource.
- Describe your goals.
- Fill out a FAFSA and complete by March 1st for full consideration. This is the same process that you completed as an undergraduate.
- Opportunities through the college/university may include:
- Fellowship Scholarships: Free money if you keep your grades up.
- Assistantships: Work for the school in exchange for tuition waiver and/or stipend.
- Teaching Assistantships: Teach introductory subject courses (usually large universities).
- Research Assistantships: Usually grant funded, specific research project with a faculty member.
- Administrative Assistantships: Work 10-20 hours/week as an Administrative Assistant in your department.
Some funding programs require a separate application. Read carefully for procedures.
Grad School Entrance Exams & Tests
- Schedule to take the exam one year prior to your intended start date.
- Study: Most tests offer online practice tests.
- Schools will set a recommended score needed for admission. Allow yourself enough time to re-take the exam if necessary.
GRE (Graduate School Examination)
- Verbal Reasoning — Measures your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, analyze relationships among component parts of sentences and recognize relationships among words and concepts.
- Quantitative Reasoning — Measures problem-solving ability, focusing on basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.
- Analytical Writing — Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically your ability to articulate and support complex ideas clearly and effectively.
- Cost: $175 (effective July 1, 2012)
MAT (Miller Analogies Test)
- 60-minute computer-based test
- Accepted by more than 2300 graduate school programs
- Reflects analytical and critical thinking abilities
- Cost: Determined by individual Computer Testing Center
GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test)
- Assesses higher-order reasoning skills: Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical Writing, and Integrated Reasoning
- Cost: $250
LSAT (Law School Admissions Test)
Only given a couple times each year, it includes five 35-minute sections, all multiple choice in addition to a 30-minute writing component. Only 4 of 5 sections contribute to the score.
- Reading comprehension – measure the ability to read, with understanding and insight, examples of lengthy and complex materials similar to those commonly encountered in law school
- Analytical reasoning – measure the ability to understand a structure of relationships and to draw logical conclusions about that structure
- Logical reasoning – assess the ability to analyze, critically evaluate, and complete arguments as they occur in ordinary language
- Writing sample – send to each school (not scored)
- Cost: $160; Credential Assembly Service (CAS) = $155
MCAT (for Medical Professions)
- A standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee’s problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.
- Scores are reported in Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences.