Applying to Graduate School signifies your desire to continue your education in a particular field of study. Whether it be in medicine, law, business, or any other discipline, the decision to go to graduate school should not be taken lightly. Here we provide some necessary fundamental information regarding researching graduate programs, entrance exams, and the application process.
Reflection questions to help you determine if graduate school is right for you:
- What career path does this open for me?
- Why am I interested in graduate school?
- Strong answers: My career goals require a graduate degree. I have the time, money, energy, and grades to be successful in the graduate program.
- Weak answers: I want to explore a new career path or find a career direction. I don't know what else to do and my family said I should go to graduate school.
- When is the right time to go?
- Reasons to go: The degree might be necessary to get the job you want, or it could help speed career advancement. You already meet the requirements for admission (ie the program doesn't require extensive experience and your GPA/test scores fit application criteria.
- Reasons to wait: You need more time to be sure of your career goals. You can save money by waiting, or you may find an employer that would help pay for the program. The experience you gain doing something else might help strengthen your application.
- Get to know your faculty. The better they know you, the more effectively they can write letters of recommendation. Faculty may also suggest graduate programs to consider and research.
- Think about what you want from graduate study - it is more intense and focused than undergraduate study.
- Begin to research programs online and request information. Consider tracking information in XPD’s Grad School Tracking Spreadsheet.
- Gain the experience needed to set you apart from other applicants, such as patient contact hours, shadowing, internships, research, etc. Use the XPD Experiential Planner as a guide!
- Consider taking the required graduate exams.
The following activities will need to be completed before entering graduate school; exact timing is dependent on the application deadlines for your schools of choice.
- Double check admission and application deadlines.
- Ensure you take necessary admission exams on time.
- Request letters of recommendation from faculty/employers; allow at least one month when giving deadlines. In your request, include specific experiences/skills you’d like them to address and attach your resume.
- Submit official transcripts. Make CSB+SJU requests here.
- Upload completed applications.
- Verify admission materials are received if you haven’t gotten electronic confirmation.
- Utilize the XPD Interviewing & Interview Questions handout and XPD Canvas Course Interviewing Module to prepare for interviews.
Use XPD’s Grad School Tracking Spreadsheet to help research graduate schools and programs.
Begin your search with one of these sources:
- CSB+SJU Graduate Outcomes Database to find out where CSB+SJU alums have studied
- CSB/SJU faculty
- Program/Department website
- Alumni of the program(s) you're considering. Utilize LinkedIn’s alumni tool to contact CSB+SJU alumni
- Campus visits
Consider the following questions in light of your own personal needs, educational values, and goals:
- What specializations exist within the field of study?
- What areas of research have program faculty focused on?
- Does the program offer research or experiential opportunities you want?
- How long does it take to complete the program?
- Where is the school located? Will the location be a fit for you?
- What are the total costs and what financial aid is available?
Each graduate entrance exam is different in approach and purpose; various academic disciplines are trying to test certain skills. Graduate exams also have different deadlines to register, administration dates, etc. Please check each exam's website for specific deadlines and requirements.
Always research individual deadlines for schools. Applying to several schools is advised.
Wondering how to write a strong and impressive personal statement? Focus on two goals:
- Be persuasive. Show why you are right for the program and how the program is right for you.
- Be personal, honest, and distinctive.
Work closely with your faculty advisor in writing your personal statement. Also, consider making an appointment with an XPD Career Coach and/or The Writing Center to receive feedback.
Follow each program’s requirement for number and timeline of submission for letters of recommendation. What to consider:
- Ask someone who knows you well. It should be a supervisor, professor, or someone else who is able to specifically and accurately express your skills and qualifications for the position.
- Some recommendations may include links sent by the program to those you indicate as references. Be sure to communicate if an actual letter or completion of a form is required.
- Provide this person with a resume to review the activities you have been and are involved in and the skills/experience you would like highlighted. The more information you can provide them the better.
- Make sure to provide your reference with a deadline and at least one month’s notice. Consider setting a deadline of a couple of weeks before the actual due date and then check back to make sure the letter was sent.
- Send a thank-you note to the letter writer when the process is complete.
Consider financial aid, scholarships, fellowships, graduate assistantships, etc. One way to help fund graduate school is to find employment with a corporation that offers tuition assistance as part of its benefits package. These programs allow employees to take courses and earn master’s degrees at nearby universities as part of advancing their careers.
Scholarships, Fellowships, Financial Aid
Grant/Fellowship Website Resources
- Association for International Educators
- Fast Web - online database of more than 180,000 private sector scholarships, fellowships, grants and loans for graduate and postdoctoral students.
- Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships for Minorities
- National Endowment for the Arts
- National Science Foundation
Financial aid deadlines often precede admission deadlines. Awards of aid are contigent upon acceptance. Check with each institution's financial aid office for procedures to apply for financial aid. The following forms of assistance may be available at the institution you plan to attend:
- Teaching assistantship
- Research assistantship
- Resident assistantship
- Graduate assistantship