Applying to Graduate School
Is graduate school right for me?
The first step in applying for graduate or professional school is to consider your reasons for attending. Do your homework about the career fields that interest you and the requirements for getting into them. Graduate schools generally admit smaller classes and can be very competitive to get into. Be honest with yourself about your chances of getting in and the investment you will make personally and financially. Allow yourself enough time to reflect and get all of the information you want and need before deciding where and when to apply.
Good reasons to go include:
- Your career field of interest requires graduate or professional school
- You are interested in a particular subject and want to learn more about it
- You want to do research in a particular field
- You love school and it would be fun and exciting to continue
Not so good reasons are:
- Someone else wants you to pursue a career field that requires graduate/professional school but you are not interested in it yourself
- You are afraid to enter the job market
- You don’t know what else to do
Choosing a Graduate ProgramClick or enter to reveal information below
Select the type of program that interests you. There may be only one type of program in your field of interest or a number of programs will lead you to your ultimate occupational choice. For example, if you want to work as a therapist, you can reach that goal through a variety of different graduate programs--Master of Science in Counseling, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, Masters in Social Work, to name a few. Try a reputable search engine like Peterson's or GradSchools.com if you are just beginning a search.
Do your homework about your field. What exactly do you want to do? Toward what career path do different degrees lead you? Which program is going to teach you what you really want to learn? Spend time and effort on this very important step. Talk to professionals in the field. Talk to faculty in your field. Read academic journals in your field to find out who is doing the research that interests you and what institution they are connected with.
Look at specific programs at specific institutions. Evaluate faculty and program details. Pick 15-25 programs to review in depth:
- What are the requirements for applying?
- What is the curriculum like?
- Who are the faculty doing research that interests you?
- What is the reputation and ranking of the school?
- Do you like the location?
- What is the cost of tuition?
- Where are the alumni working?
- What are the facilities like?
Keep in mind that not all of these things will be equally important to you.
Application Strategy and ComponentsClick or enter to reveal information below
When it comes to applying to graduate school, most students focus a great deal on making top grades in college and acing entrance exams. While these are very important application components that attest to your ability to handle the academic rigor of graduate school, they are only part of much larger picture. The subjective components of your application—recommendation letters, personal statement, supplemental essays, and in many cases, an interview—reveal personal characteristics and skill sets that cannot be assessed through grades or test scores.
It is important that your application as a whole reflect what’s unique about you and how well these qualities are developed in you. The larger goal of the admissions process is to determine “fit” – to match the best students with the right program interests.
Apply to a variety of schools: ones that you are fairly certain you will get into, ones that are more middle level for you, and your dream programs.