Considering graduate school? Here are some frequently asked questions that might come up:
1. Is graduate study for you?
Before going any further, you may wish to carefully consider some important questions:
- What do I want to accomplish in my lifetime?
- What are my long- and short-range professional goals?
- Is graduate study necessary for me to achieve these goals?
- Do I have the interest and ability to be successful in a graduate program?
- By going to graduate school, am I simply delaying my career decision-making?
- Am I willing to invest the time and money to take on another academic program?
Before applying for further study, you need to be fully aware of the working conditions, employment prospects, and physical and mental requirements of the field you plan to pursue. Our country?s graduate and professional schools have been experiencing a steady increase in applicants as more and more individuals seek specialization in one field or another. Unfortunately, some individuals enter graduate study with the idea that they can postpone the inevitable job-search and/or career decision-making process for another year or two. If this is your motivation for entering graduate school, it could have serious implications for your career development.
2. When should I start the application process?
Here is a suggested timetable that many people find helpful. This timetable may vary depending on the deadlines for various graduate programs. The best way to be sure is to contact the graduate program you are applying to or check their website for due dates.
September through December
- Attend graduate school fairs
- Talk to faculty and advisors
- Review graduate school catalogs and programs
- Determine admissions requirements
- Make a tentative list of schools
January through March
- Research schools
- Begin collecting ideas for statement of purpose
- Preparation course and study for GRE or other required tests
April through August
- Narrow your list of schools
- Begin writing your statement of purpose
- If practical, visit schools
- Take the GRE or other required tests EARLY
- Request letters of recommendation
September through October
- If you haven?t taken required tests, do so NOW!
- If you haven?t asked for letters of recommendation, do so NOW!
- Fill out applications
- Send transcripts
December through January
- Standard deadlines for receipt of graduate school admission application
- Standard date for financial aid awards
- Standard date for notification of admission
3. I have decided I want to go to graduate school, but where should I go?
There are many aspects to take into consideration. Consider graduate rankings (There is no single reliable ranking of graduate schools), geographic location (the weather, political/social climate, an urban versus rural setting, as well as accessibility of employment opportunities upon graduation may be important in your planning), size of the institution (the amount and availability of financial aid may be affected), state regulations (some state universities are required by law to give preference to in-state residents), philosophy of education (some institutions may approach the subject matter theoretically, while others may be more pragmatic in their approach), residence requirements (out-of-state tuition may be twice that which a legal resident pays), available work experiences (career-related assistantships), placement services (will you receive assistance in your job search when you are ready to graduate), and other considerations (will you be required to do a thesis, etc).
4. What financial aid is available to me?
Types of financial aid available for graduate study are somewhat different from aid you may have been familiar with as an undergraduate. General types of aid include the following: Fellowships - on the graduate level, a fellowship is the equivalent of a scholarship. It is usually a straight monetary award given on the basis of scholastic achievement. Assistantships - assistantships usually involve working 10-20 hours per week in exchange for some stipend and/or fee remission. Teaching or research assistantships are often available through the academic department or program of study. Resident Assistantships - Some institutions have programs in which graduate students earn a stipend, room and board, or both by working as assistants in undergraduate residence halls. Long-term Educational Loans - Most institutions have loan programs for which graduate students may be eligible. College Work-Study Program - Under this program, eligible undergraduate and graduate students are provided part-time employment opportunities during the academic year, as well as part-time or full-time opportunities during the summer.
5. A personal statement is often required. What should my personal statement include?
Personal statements are often 1-2 pages and may contain the following: Your reasons for pursuing graduate school The area in which you wish to specialize Your career goals and future plans Your intellectual interests, talents, and special abilities Your background, experience, preparation, and accomplishments Your fitness for graduate study Explanations of problems or inconsistencies in your record Special conditions or circumstances What has influenced your decision What led you to apply for this particular program
6. How many letters of recommendation are required? How should I begin this process?
Many admissions committees rely heavily on letters of recommendation. Most schools request 2-4 letters of recommendation. The letters should specifically address your application for graduate school (do not send general character references). You should ask faculty, mentors, or employers who know you and your academic achievements and capabilities to write your letters of recommendation. You should provide those you ask to write letters with the following: Your statement of purpose, relevant background information such as your resume, samples of academic work such as papers, research, etc., you should suggest areas of academic performance or special skills you would like them to address, and you should let them know your career and educational goals.
7. Is there an interview process in graduate school? How do I prepare?
Some graduate and professional schools will require an interview as part of the application process. The interview gives the graduate admissions committee an opportunity to determine if there is a match between what you are seeking in graduate study and what their institution has to offer. The following is a listing designed to give you an idea of the types of questions you may expect in a typical interview situation.
Sample interview questions: Why are you interested in this graduate program at this particular school? What are your plans after you complete your graduate work? Are you interested in an assistantship? If so, which one(s)? How did you decide to pursue this field of study? What are your research interests? What courses or experiences at your undergraduate institution caused you to think about graduate study in this field? What other graduate schools are you considering? What are your plans if you should not be accepted into a graduate program?
8. What admissions tests are required?
Various admission tests may be required depending on your discipline and the particular graduate school to which you apply. The most common tests are listed below:
GRE - Graduate Record Exam- required for most graduate programs -
MAT - Miller Analogies Test- required by some psychology and education programs -
LSAT - Law School Admissions Test -
GMAT- Graduate Management Admission Test -
MCAT - Medical College Admission Test -
GSFLT - Graduate School Foreign Language Test
DAT - Dental Aptitude Test -
OAT - Optometry Admission Test -
PCAT - Pharmacy College Admission Test
TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language -
VCAT - Veterinary College Admission Test
The Center for Academic and Tutorial Services is here to help you in any way possible. If you have additional questions concerning graduate school or any other part of your future, schedule a meeting with an administrator in the C.A.T.S. office or visit the .
The Graduate School Option from the Miami University Career Development Series, Career Planning and Placement Office. Pgs 1-10.
Sonoma State University. Selecting a Graduate School. retrieved January 17, 2003.
Eastern Kentucky University. Applying to Graduate School. retrieved March 3, 2004.