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Are you considering continuing your education in the form of graduate or professional study? Below are recommended steps to take as you begin to look at the various factors that go into making a decision to pursue a graduate degree.
Is a Graduate Degree Necessary?
Graduate school can be the next step after your undergraduate degree, depending on your field of study. While some professions only require a bachelor’s degree to enter the field, it is important to research and network with professionals in your desired field to better understand the required education. Sometimes graduate or professional education is more suitable after a few years working in the field. One thing is for sure, graduate and professional education is not intended for the individual who wants to simply delay the "real world".
If you have decided graduate school is your next step, researching programs should become a priority. The first thing you will want to consider is if you want to do an online, hybrid, or on campus program. Also take into consideration any possible experiential/internship requirement of a possible program and if you want to pursue the degree full or part time. Taking these initial factors into consideration will help you narrow down your options. You may stop by our office and pick up a FREE Graduate School Guide which details most graduate programs in the country and their contact information. We also have several books in the Resource Center that can assist you in your search.
Graduate Guide GradSchools.com
Peterson’s Graduate School Guide
U.S News and World Report Ranking of Best Graduate Schools
Resources Specifically For Students Interested in a PhD
PhD in History
PhD in Speech Language
PhD in Psychology
When you applied to college, the admissions deadlines and procedures were fairly standard across schools. It is critical to understand that the admissions procedures, deadlines, and requirements vary widely for graduate programs. It is best to stay in contact with admissions representatives throughout the process to ensure materials were received. Many schools have online portals though which applicants can check the status, but a phone call is always ok. Many times you have to apply to both the graduate school of the college or university and the actual program. Schools weigh application materials differently, so do not think that because you don’t possess a certain qualification or test score that you won’t be admitted to a program . Contact the department of that program to speak with the chair or a faculty member to better understand how they weight materials. Typically, here is the importance of admissions materials to graduate school (1 being most important and 7 being least).
2.Test Scores (GRE, GMAT, MCAT, etc.)
3.Personal Statement- Kaplan worksheet
4.Letters of Recommendation
5.Experience and Extra Curricular Activities
Depending on the program applying for, you may be required to take an admissions test such as the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT. Some programs have average scores for those admitted or required scores to apply. It is important to schedule the exam to give yourself enough time to adequately prepare. We have several prep books in our Resource Center to help you in preparing to take anyone of those exams. You can also schedule to take practice exams at local colleges and universities to better help prepare. Here are some useful links to help prepare and schedule your test:
• Graduate Record Examination (The 2012-2013 GRE Information and Registration Bulletin and other forms can be found here)
• LSAT Prep Courses - Test Masters
• Law School Admissions Council
• MBA.com: Take the GMAT
• Peterson's Test Prep
Considerations for Choosing a Program and Making a Decision
When attempting to select a graduate or professional program, it is important to apply to a variety of programs. Apply for your top choice, a safe school (usually has lower admission standards than your top choice), and a couple of schools between these two. You will also want to obtain information directly from the graduate institution and, specifically, from the program in which you have an interest. Take the time to do additional research by examining what guides, publications, and rankings can tell you about programs, as well as by talking to faculty members from your undergraduate institution and to students or alumni from the graduate or professional program. Lastly, you should visit, being certain to examine the space where you will be studying to speak with professors and students. You will also want to gather information about assistantships, fellowships, or other related work experiences, if these are offered by any of the programs for which you are applying.
Through your research, you should possess plenty of information about which programs have the best reputation for advancing your career, enhancing your skills, and expanding your network of professional contacts.
• Admissions Requirements
If application or test deadlines have passed, your options may be limited.
• Financial Aid
Some institutions offer fellowships or assistantships that can help you to pay for your education, while also providing you with practical experience.
Do you have a preference for small, medium, or large institutions?
Do you prefer rural or urban? How far away are you from the people and places that you know best?
• Potential Professors and Classmates
What are the professors and students like? If you have had an opportunity to meet people at the various institutions, then you may have already made new friends or discovered professors from whom you would enjoy learning.
• Alumni Support
Many institutions have a large group of loyal alumni, which is important when there are available positions in the organizations for which those alumni work.
Funding Your Education
Graduate school can be a big decision because of debt from your undergraduate education or the inability to work full time while attending school full time. It is important to understand that so long as you are a half time student (6 credits or more per semester) that any undergraduate loans are deferred until 6 months after you graduate or cease taking 6 or more credits. Many graduate programs offer assistantships or research opportunities that include some level of tuition remission and a stipend. Levels of each are dependent on school, department, and your willingness to attend full time. As a graduate student you are still eligible to complete the FAFSA. For more information on funding graduate and professional education, click here.