Applying to Graduate School
Advanced degrees are generally classified as professional degree programs, which essentially prepare you for a specific career (i.e., medicine, law, business administration) and research degree programs, which allow you to specialize in an academic area (i.e., English, biology), and emphasize research and teaching. In most cases, in research degree programs, earning a master’s degree prepares you to earn a doctorate, the most advanced degree. In general, master’s degree programs take 1-3 years (full-time) to complete and doctoral programs may take 3-6 years to complete. Getting your graduate degree on a part-time basis may be an option for individuals who need to work full-time while pursuing graduate studies.
Researching Graduate Schools
- Speak with alumni, professors, Career Development
Talk to individuals you know who have attended graduate school. You may receive valuable information about the process of applying to graduate school, the programs, and the culture and expectations of graduate schools.
- Use graduate school guides and catalogs
Use graduate school guides and catalogs on the web and in the Career Development Office. Free websites include www.gradschools.com, www.petersons.com, and www.MastersDegreeOnline.org that include directories of graduate programs. Select schools that interest you, and then visit those schools’ websites to find out program specifics, admission deadlines and requirements and information on financial aid. Consider on-line or hybrid programs that combine classroom and on-line classes.
- Visit schools if possible
You may want to schedule a meeting with a director or chairperson of the academic department, as well as with the admissions office of the school. In many cases when you visit schools, you can visit classes and meet students currently enrolled in the graduate program. In graduate school, you will work more closely with professors and fellow students than you did during your undergraduate program. It is important that the department you choose is a good fit for your interests and goals and it is advantageous to develop a relationship with individuals at the schools to which you are applying.
The Application Process
- Download or request application materials from schools
Review admission requirements and deadlines. School deadlines vary.
- Schedule and prepare for entrance exams
The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is the major entrance exam for graduate school. Some schools will also accept the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) in lieu of the GRE. The GRE has two types of tests—the General Test and Subject Tests. For many programs, only the General Test is required. Check individual programs for their requirements. For Master in Business Administration (NBA) programs, you will likely take the Graduate Management Admission Exam (GMAT), although many MBA programs will now accept either the GMAT or the GRE General Test. Medical schools require the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and law schools require the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The GRE General Test and GMAT are offered throughout the year, while the LSAT, MCAT, and GRE Subject Tests are offered on a few specific dates. Books, classes, and web sites are available to help you prepare. Test scores may also be used in determining your eligibility for fellowships.
- Get your recommendations in order and request transcripts
Be polite in your requests and give supervisors, professors, and others you are asking time to prepare. Last minute requests are generally not well received. You will need to provide official transcripts from any schools you have attended.
- Prepare your essays
Applications to graduate schools will ask you to complete one or more essay questions. Most applications will ask you for a personal statement or statement of purpose (your reason for wanting to pursue graduate education). Allow yourself ample time to prepare these, as they are very important in the admission process. Essays are evidence of your ability to write well, so proofread them carefully and get feedback from someone you trust before you submit them.
- Organize and keep copies of your application materials
If you are applying to more than one or two schools, you may want to consider using a service like Interfolio (www.interfolio.com) to manage your materials. There is a fee for this service so you may prefer to use Excel spreadsheets to track items.
- Confirm receipt of all of your materials
To ensure that your application is complete, contact each school well before the application deadline to make sure that all of your application materials have been received.
Graduate School Resources
Information on taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is available on this site. The GRE offers a general test and a subject test. Many programs require the general test only, but some graduate programs, particularly the sciences, may also require the subject test.
Information on the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), which is accepted by some schools in lieu of the GRE, is available here. A candidate information booklet, practice test and resource guide are available on the web site.
Find information on taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) as well as other resources for applying to law schools, including school rankings and links to schools.
If you are considering getting an MBA, this site has information on taking the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), as well as resources for applying to MBA programs.
Click on “MCAT” for information on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This site includes additional information for students, including advice on applying to medical school, careers in medicine, and other resources.
Please note that the sites listed above have some free test prep help, including sample tests and questions and free software. The sites below involve paying a fee for assistance.
Kaplan Test (fee)
Princeton Review (fee)
General Graduate School Information
Search for graduate schools by program, metro area, or other criteria, testing information, financing options and advice.
This site provides a comprehensive list of on-line Master’s programs across the United States.
The Peterson’s site is particularly good for researching schools with specific programs.
This site includes rankings of graduate programs.
PsychGrad is a site for those interested in earning a graduate degree in Psychology.
Vault (click on the Education tab), has excellent advice on applying to graduate programs (particularly law school and business school), as well as great information on careers and industries.