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Career Services Corner: Applying to Grad school

Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 09:01

Many students have come to us in the Career Services Center with lots of questions about attending graduate school. We would like to take this opportunity to address some of those questions and pose a few more that you may have not yet considered.

1.With the job market the way it is, is it better to go to graduate school than to try to find a job?

Just like deciding on an undergraduate degree, you’ll want to consider what you will get out of graduate school, what you will study, how long it will take, how much will it cost, and whether it will give you the professional preparation you need for your chosen career. You’ll also want to take a look at the entrance requirements (GRE/GMAT/LSAT scores, minimum GPA, personal statement, interviews, etc.) and decide whether you want to go through the entire application process. Finding a suitable graduate program is just as important as finding a suitable job. Choosing to go to graduate school does not mean less planning or preparation than taking part in a job search. You will want to think about why graduate school is a better option for your individual circumstances and make an informed decision.

2.How do I find the RIGHT graduate school program?

Graduate school can provide an opportunity to specialize so take the time to research what types of programs interest you. There are plenty of options with a wide range of offerings depending on what is important for you. Ask yourself if geographic location is a priority, if the faculty research interests you, or if there will be job opportunities after graduation.

Start by visiting to learn more about options and how to contact specific programs. With all the brochures and application materials you will collect from each program in which you are interested, it’s helpful to find a way to organize the information. Consider creating a file folder for each program. Use the files to keep track of application deadlines, entrance requirements, supplemental information needed, and main selection criteria. If you’ve decided to apply for grad school, you will want to have a plan. Pick a few schools to apply to that are a stretch based on your qualifications and a few where you’re confident you’ll be accepted. Graduate school is even more competitive than undergrad so be prepared to apply to more than one school so you have options for “Plan B.” You may decide to apply for more than a few programs, but be sure to consider what a reasonable number is for you.

3.What do I have to do to apply for a program? How much time will the process take?

Admissions criteria and application requirements are different for each program. Make sure that you read the program material carefully to learn about each program’s specific requirements and follow the directions when applying. Luckily, most applications are filled out online which allows for faster submission. Most likely you’ll need to create a username and password to begin and re-enter an application – be sure to write that information down so you are not locked out of an application in process or need to begin a new form!

Plan ahead for deadlines and send all application materials in the same envelope. By sending all the information together, there is less risk that your materials will get separated. The entire application process can take at least two months to complete but it could be a lot longer depending on program requirements.

Be aware that some programs will have a winter application deadline for admissions into the following fall semester and some programs may only admit students once a year – this is where your research into program options is important.

4.When will I know if I am admitted into graduate school?

Depending on the program, your application could be one of hundreds to be reviewed so don’t expect an immediate answer. If the deadline has passed for when you should have heard if you were accepted, feel free to contact the school to be updated on the status of your application. Hopefully you will receive multiple acceptance letters to various programs. If this happens, you will have to decide which the best match is for you and your circumstances. As with a job offer, it’s important to consider the various factors that could help you make up your mind. What kind of financial aid is offered? Are there internships or graduate assistantships? Will you be able (or required) to take classes and also work? How does the program fit with your plans for the rest of your life?

Deciding to pursue a graduate degree can be a fun and rewarding endeavor. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Come on over and see us in Career Services so we can coach you on successfully researching, selecting, and applying!

Amy Fraser, Career Counseling Intern

Amanda Pelon, Career Counselor

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