Graduate School Overview
- Graduate School Fair, fall semester. Approximately 65+ programs attend.
- Individualized counseling for:
- assistance in identifying programs and options
- personal statement and resume reviews
- practice interviews, by appointment or online through InterviewStream, available on the CDO website.
- Petersons Guide to Graduate and Professional Programs (a complete encyclopedia of North American graduate programs) and other print resources at the CDO Library.
Should you go to graduate or professional school?
There are many good reasons to pursue graduate study. Obviously many professions require a graduate degree, while many others might not require it but offer greater advancement opportunities to those with a master’s or doctorate. For some, it’s critical to go to graduate school immediately after college, while for others there could be more benefit to gaining some work experience in the field before pursuing an advanced degree. An appointment with a CDO counselor can help clarify your options and help you determine the best course of action for YOUR specific career goals.
CHOOSING A PROGRAM
Selecting a graduate program is one of the most important decisions you will make in your career. You should apply to as many programs as you can reasonably afford, in order to give you as many options as possible. The exploration process should begin no later than during your junior year, and you may want to personally visit as many programs as you can.
While each person will have a unique priority list, here are some factors to consider when choosing programs:
- Is it a good academic match for your specific career and research goals?
- Are there assistantships or fellowships to make the cost affordable?
- Do their graduates have a good track record of success?
- Do you meet or (hopefully) exceed their minimum requirements?
- Is it in a location you want to live and/or work in?
- Will you have the opportunity to do an internship, practicum, or research in your field?
A graduate assistantship is typically a 20 hour a week job that pays a stipend and waives some or all of your graduate tuition. In other words, it is a great way to help finance your graduate study and a resume builder as well! A graduate assistant (GA) could be working with a professor on research projects, teaching a 100 level course or lab in their field of study, or doing clerical work in the department. These assistantships are often issued by the academic program, but other assistantships may be available in other campus offices such as residence halls or other student affairs offices like career development or campus life. You should always ask the academic program you are applying to, the graduate admissions office, and the financial aid office at each school about all GA opportunities on campus, as well as when and how to apply (there may be a completely separate application process).
Graduate school entrance exams are always evolving, as are test dates and exam sites. You should get information regarding the specific exams you need directly from the exam websites. If you are not sure which exam is required for your program, check that program’s admissions website or contact the department or graduate admissions office.
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE) - http://www.ets.org/gre
- Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) - http://www.mba.com/
- Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) - https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/
- Dental Admission Test (DAT) - http://www.ada.org/dat.aspx
- Optometry Admission Test (OAT) - https://www.ada.org/oat/
- Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) - http://www.pcatweb.info/
- Law School Admission Test (LSAT) - http://www.lsac.org/
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
For most graduate programs, the application process can be quite lengthy and involved, so start the process as early as possible. Deadlines range from as late as July or August (for an August start date) to as early as the previous October! While every school is different (and sometimes, individual programs within schools can also be different!), most will require the following as part of the application process:
- An application form, usually completed online
- Letters of recommendation, typically from professors or job/internship supervisors
- A personal statement/statement of intent, which is a short essay about your goals
- An official transcript
- Scores from the appropriate entrance exams (GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc.)
- A resume
- A writing sample appropriate to your field
- An interview
- An application fee (of course!)
Many professional programs such as law and medicine are moving toward a single application system that most programs will accept, saving you the time and effort of duplicating your work.
THE PERSONAL STATEMENT
A well-written personal statement can make a good candidate great, and a poorly-written one can take qualified candidates right out of consideration. Before starting to write your statement, always read the instructions. Is there a minimum or maximum length requirement? Do they provide instructions as to topics to cover or fonts to use?
Most personal statements are 2-3 double-spaced pages and cover the following topics:
- How did you come to enter this field? This makes for a good introductory paragraph, and should be told almost like a story with personalized details.
- What are your academic and/or professional accomplishments? Include a summary of your academic performance, your extracurricular activities, and your work history as they relate to the program.
- Why are you interested in THIS program at THIS institution? This also needs to be very personalized. Do they have impressive facilities, unique courses, professors who share your research areas? It’s not enough to talk about you—you need to talk about how your goals will be served by specific aspects of their program.
- What are your career goals and how does the program fit them? Be as clear and specific as you can.
You should have a draft of your statement reviewed by a counselor at the CDO as well as by a professor in your academic discipline. We have several resources in our CDO Library to help you, including Graduate Admission Essays, an excellent book by Donald Asher.
At some point during the application process a program may schedule interviews. The CDO’s handouts on interviewing will give you some excellent tips on preparation, but here are some important things to remember for a graduate school interview:
- Dress professionally. That means a business suit in most fields.
- Know yourself: your strengths and weaknesses, your reasons for choosing this career path, your accomplishments.
- Know the program and your reasons for wanting to pursue your studies there.
- Know your field: what issues and challenges are facing it, what niche do you want to fill within it.
- Most of all, remember that this is a conversation about two things that you ought to be very familiar with: you, and your favorite academic discipline. So smile!