Graduate school allows you to examine a particular field in a focused way. Some masters degrees are designed to lead to a doctoral degree while others are the “terminal” degree for a profession (e.g., MBA, Master of Library Science). Completing a masters usually takes 2-3 years for full-time students. Doctoral degrees usually entail the contribution of new knowledge to a field and a written dissertation; it usually takes 5-7 years to complete.
Clarify why you want to pursue graduate school. Some people don’t know what area to focus on, or they feel pressured to attend grad school now. Others want a higher salary and don’t see any options other than grad school. Others aren’t ready to enter the work world. Make an appointment with a career counselor if any of these scenarios fit you.
It’s important to assess whether you’re ready for it. Ask yourself: Have you counted the costs in terms of time, energy and money? How will you cover living expenses? Can you stay interested in a narrow range of topics for 2-7 years? Do you need a break from school? Are you ready to sacrifice work experience for school?
Consult the following resources, visit school web sites, read catalogs, and attend our graduate school fairs and workshops.
Also called a “personal statement” or “letter of intent.” Some schools require statements with specific information about an applicant’s target area of study, while others are open to a wide range of content. The overall purpose is to persuade the admissions committee that you should be chosen.
Words to Avoid: significant, interesting, challenging, satisfying, satisfaction, appreciate, invaluable, exciting, excited, enjoyable, enjoy, feel good, appealing, I like it, it’s important, I can contribute, meant a lot to me, stimulating, incredible, gratifying, fascinating, meaningful, helping people, remarkable, rewarding, useful, valuable, helpful.
Recommendation letters are important in the application process and could be a deciding factor in getting accepted into your program of choice. 3 letters are often required from such people as (a) someone who knows you well, (b) a professor, or (c) a previous supervisor. Give 2 months advance notice when requesting letters.
Most graduate and professional schools, but not all, require entrance exams. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General and Subject tests are required by many academic programs (Master and Doctoral degrees). MBA programs usually require the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Other tests are required in other fields such as the LSAT for law school, the MCAT for medical school, the DAT for dentistry school, the OAT for optometry school, and the TOEFL English proficiency test for international students. Grades and entrance exams are often weighed heavily in the admissions process.