Undergraduate Students Considering Graduate School


If you’re considering continuing your studies to earn a masters or PhD graduate degree, Career Services is happy to help you with your application process and materials.  Before beginning the application process, though, you may want to do some introspective brainstorming, and ask yourself some of the following questions.  IMPORTANT: Take notes, as you may be asked some of these same questions in an interview or on application essays:

  • What are your career aspirations and how will graduate school, specifically those you wish to apply to, will help you attain your career goals.
  • What are your specific research interests?
  • What do you wish to learn and what skills, abilities, and experience do you hope to gain?
  • Where do you want to go to graduate school and why?
  • Why do you believe you’d add value to the graduate program(s) of your choice?
  • Why do you think you’re a good fit for the graduate program(s) of your choice?
  • Why are you choosing specific graduate programs?
  • Who do you wish to study with and why?
  • How are you uniquely qualified to attend and add value to the program(s) of your choice?

Graduate School Application Planning Guide

Now that you’ve decided graduate school is the right road to take, you should research schools/programs to identify a number of schools/programs that are a good fit for you and will help you achieve your academic goals.  You want to choose programs/professors that most closely align with your study/research interests.  Your professors, many times, are your best resource for identifying a graduate school or program that’s best for you.

Additional resource: FindTheBest Education

Make a list, prioritizing your choices and do your research to learn about each school’s application requirements and follow them exactly.

Research Graduate Schools/Programs

Researching a program:

  • Speak to professors and graduate students in your department or the department that most closely matches your desired area of graduate study. They are a great "been there, done that" resource for do's and don'ts advice, and will be familiar with programs that may be a good fit for you.

Researching a school:

  • Create a Compare and Contrast spreadsheet with important aspects of the schools you are considering, such as location, financial aid, cost, program notoriety, etc.
  • Call graduate school(s) you are interested in and ask to be connected with professor(s) in your research field of interest.
  • Also consider calling the graduate school(s) you are interested in and ask to be connected with current graduate students and alumni. They have great insight and will be candid about the positive and negatives of the school's program.

Research Timelines, Deadlines, and Requirements of each Program

IMPORTANT: Application requirements, application deadlines, and financial aid application deadlines are different for every program!

  • Begin process of researching programs at least 6 months before applications are due. During this time, gather information about the program, contact admissions office with questions, and if possible, schedule a campus visit.
  • Applications are traditionally due in the first three months - January, February, or March - in the year in which you would like to attend.

Find and record specific application requirements and application timelines and deadlines:

  • GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, etc. results
  • Personal Statement (PS) and/or Statement of Purpose (SOP) Essay
  • Statement of Research and/or Career Interests Essay
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Formal application forms (including financial aid applications)
  • Transcripts (official required?)
  • Resume/CV

IMPORTANT: Create an application log and filing system to keep track of your application actions and materials, as every school has different collection methods. Ensure you keep accurate records and follow directions exactly, as experts say that application mistakes can sometimes prove fatal to acceptance chances.


  • Find out when and where you can take the entrance exam required by the program to which you’re applying. 
  • It’s never too early to begin studying, so purchase or borrow numerous and valuable study guides. 
  • Ensure you bring your chosen school/program information to your test, so the results will be directly sent to the correct school and contact person.  
  • Consider taking your entrance exam early, so you have time to retake it if your results are not up to your expectations.

Application Essay(s)

Begin drafting your application essays early.  The quality of these documents is critical to your application process.  You’ll be competing with a number of very qualified applicants, and this may be your only opportunity to stand above the rest.  Research says that a number of promising potential graduate students are denied entrance to a program because of a poorly written essay.  Please be aware that each application essay will be different for each school or program to which you apply.  There is no one template to write for every program to which you apply – they may all require you write about different topics or ask you to address specific questions, and there may be varying requirements for length. Seek advice and critique from professors, industry professionals, writing center coaches and/or career services advisors throughout the writing process.    

When writing your essay(s) keep in mind the following points:

  • The admission committee is going to read between the lines to find motivation, competence, and potential as a graduate student.
  • Write in positive and active voice.
  • Provide detailed and specific support for all statements.
  • If there is something that happened which affected any aspects of your application or grades negatively, such as poverty, illness, or excessive co-curricular work, describe it. Use it affirmatively to show perseverance.
  • Keep the essay cohesive and focused.

Suggested structure for Statement of Purpose:

  • Part 1: Introduction
  • Part 2: Summary of undergraduate experiences such as research, papers published, thesis projects, and any related work experience
  • Part 3: Discuss co-curricular experience, specifically leadership that helped you develop teamwork, interpersonal, and communication skills.
  • Part 4: End in a positive manner with excitement and assurance that you can handle the challenges ahead

Letters of Recommendations

  • Request and acquire letters of recommendation (most programs ask for 3), and be sure to do so exactly according to each school’s requirements.  Some might ask your recommender to log into a specific site and answer questions and some will ask your recommender to address very specific questions in his or her letter. Some programs will ask for specific recommenders, such as your academic advisor or other professors and some will ask that the letter be sent directly to the school from the recommender.  
  • Be sure to request these letters early in order to give your recommenders plenty of time to meet each specific deadline (you will want to follow up with your recommenders to ensure they’ve sent your letter by or before your deadline).  
  • Be sure to write an handwritten thank you note immediately following your application deadline and be sure to follow up with them to let them know of your plans – which school or program you’ll attend.

To officially request Letters of Recommendation from Michigan Tech's faculty and staff you must fill out a form.

Financial Aid Opportunities

  • Research financial aid opportunities (loans, grants, stipends, RA/TA salary, college-work study programs, etc.) 
  • Record what is available from each school/program and what those application requirements, timelines, and deadlines are. It is highly recommended that you apply early.

Campus Visit

Highly consider visiting the programs of your choice, as this may help you make your final decision if you receive multiple acceptances.  Call at least 2 weeks beforehand to make arrangements for a tour and information gathering meetings.  

Make appointments with: 

  • The graduate program director to find out general information about how their program works, the curriculum, and financial aid opportunities
  • Your specific choice for committee chair/ professor(s) to discuss research interest and process
  • 2-3 current graduate students to find out what it’s like to be a graduate student in the program from their perspective

Graduate School Interviews

Not all graduate programs will interview you, but if you are invited for an interview, it's a good thing, because that means you are a finalist in the application process. If a program is taking the time and expense to interview you, it will weigh heavily in the decision process, so it's best to be prepared.

  • Preform in-depth research about the program and its faculty. Understand the curriculum, training emphasis, and faculty research interests. Read their CV and any articles they have listed relevant to your field, so you can have discussions and ask informed questions.
  • Identify ways you are a good match for their program and how you will add value to the program's or a specific professor's research work.
  • Be yourself and consider the interview a conversation - not a test. But, prepare like you would for a job interview. Know what to expect and the best interview practices. Schedule a Mock Interview with Career Services.
  • Keep in mind that interviewers are more interested in work ethic and character than how much you know. Your enthusiasm and excitement for your field is most important. Be positive at all times.
  • Dress professionally for the interview and visit (even though you may never dress that formally again).
  • Present yourself in a positive manner; talk about your strengths.
  • After the interview, follow up with a formal thank you letter.

The key to any successful interview is preparation - practice, practice, practice!

 Sample Graduate School Mock Interview Questions

How to Answer Interview Questions

Acceptance Deadlines

If you do receive multiple acceptances, be sure to understand each school’s acceptance deadline and the method in which they wish for you to accept (ie: formal letter, email, on-line format, etc.)  Seek advice from trusted mentors to help you make your decision and reply to the school of your choice as soon as you can.  This courteous timeliness allows your program to plan for you joining their team as a teaching or research assistant, and it allows time to process your financial aid.  Then, immediately and respectfully, decline your other acceptances, as this courteous timeliness allows these programs to extend acceptances to other students on their waiting list. 

Current Students Applying to Graduate School at Michigan Tech

If you are already a Michigan Tech student, you should consider the Graduate School offerings at Michigan Tech.  Many of the applications, processes, tests, etc. that would be required by a different University will be waived or reduced if continue your education at Michigan Tech.  You may also consider the Accelerated Master's Program which allows you to apply some of your undergraduate credits toward your master's degree.