Graduate School Information
Deciding to go to graduate school is a complex process, with many factors to consider. Graduate school is a major commitment of several years, money, intense coursework and research, and is much more demanding than your undergraduate program. Examine your personal motivations and educate yourself about graduate school; both are essential to making an informed decision. The answers to the following questions may help.
Are my career goals well defined?
A clear picture of what you want in your career will let you know whether an advanced degree will help you get there. Graduate school may not be for you, at least not now, if:
- you have no idea what to do with your life;
- you think you are not ready for “the real world”;
- you struggled in many of your undergraduate classes; or
- you loved undergraduate school and don’t want it to end
If any of these are true for you, invest some time and energy with the staff of the Career Services Center let us help you with: self-assessment, career exploration, and planning.
If you do know what you want, do the research to learn if a graduate degree will help you get there. While certain careers, such as doctors and lawyers, definitely require an advanced degree, many fields offer job opportunities at the undergraduate level. In some situations, having an advanced degree could actually hinder your job search if you have little or no job experience. Graduate degrees are also highly specialized; you will not earn an MBA and then work as a counselor or a physical therapist. Again, take the time to be certain of your desired career path first.
When is the right time for graduate school?
Some reasons to enter grad school right out of college:
- you have academic momentum;
- you have few obligations;
- your career field may require an advanced degree.
Some reasons to work a few years before graduate school:
- your work experience can provide greater clarity of your career goals;
- you can save up money, and/or your employer may pay for graduate school;
- your graduate program may require work experience
- you will have a more mature outlook on school, work, and life.
Do I have the grades (and the motivation) to get in and stay in?
Graduate programs have GPA and standardized test requirements (e.g., GRE, MCAT, GMAT, etc.) You can learn admissions requirements as you research the programs you are considering. To persevere, most programs require a B average or higher to count toward graduation credit. Most also require a research thesis, internship experience, and/or a passing score on comprehensive exams in order to earn your degree.
Can I afford graduate school?
Look at the costs of the graduate programs that interest you. Study the literature they send you and talk to their financial aid advisers to determine what combination of financial aid makes the program feasible for you. Be sure to also research the graduate assistantships they offer, which can help defray education costs. And if you are employed, find out if your employer offers an education reimbursement program.
Other things to consider
- Timetable for application process
- Required elements of each school’s application packet
- Development of your personal essay / statement of purpose *
- Your curriculum vitae / resume’ *
- Faculty recommendation letters
"Samples" and “how to” resources available in the Career Library, Ward Edwards 1200.
These will in part be determined by the individual requirements of the schools to which you are applying.
“Thinking about Graduate School?”