Graduate School Overview
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
HOW CAN THE CDO HELP YOU?