Undergraduate Considering Graduate School
If you’re considering continuing your studies to earn a 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. 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?
Undergraduate Planning to Attend Graduate School
Now that you’ve decided graduate school is the right road to take, research schools/programs to identify a number of schools/programs you might wish to apply. You want to choose programs 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.
Deadlines for different programs and financial aid packages are diverse.
- Consider beginning this process 18 months before application deadlines
- Traditionally in the first three months (January, February, or March or Spring Semester of your Senior Year) of the year in which you would like to attend
Make a list, prioritizing your choices and do your research to learn about each school’s application requirements and follow them exactly.
IMPORTANT: Record Application Requirements and Deadlines
IMPORTANT: Find and record specific application requirements and deadlines:
- GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, etc. results
- Personal Statement (PS) and/or Statement of Purpose (SOP) Essay
- Statement of Research and/or Career Interests
- Letters of Recommendation
- Formal application forms (including financial aid applications)
- Transcripts (official required?)
Speak with Professors
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” resources for dos and don’ts advice, and will be familiar with programs that may be a good fit for you.
Create an Application Log
Create an application log and filing system to keep track of your application actions and materials. Ensure you keep accurate records and follow directions exactly, as experts say that application mistakes can sometimes prove fatal to acceptance chances.
Prepare for the Entrance Exam
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 widely available. 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.
Begin Application Essays
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.
Acquire Letters of Recommendations
Request and acquire letters of recommendations (most ask for 3) and be sure to do so exactly according to each school’s requirements. Some will ask your recommender to log into a specific site and answer questions, some will ask your recommender to address very specific questions in his or her letter, some 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). Finally, be sure to write an handwritten thank you note immediately following your application deadline and follow up with them to let them know of your plans – which school or program you’ll attend.
Research Financial Aid Opportunities
Research financial aid opportunities (loans, grants, stipends, RA/TA salary, etc.) Record what is available from each school/program and what those application requirements, timelines, and deadlines are and be sure to apply on time.
Be Aware of the 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.
Visit the Programs
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 to discuss research interest and process and 2-3 current graduate students to find out what it’s like to be a graduate student in the program from their perspective.