It’s important to evaluate your reasons for wanting to go to graduate school. Unlike most undergraduate experiences, graduate programs require that you have clear direction toward a certain career path. Ask yourself the following questions: Do my career goals require an advanced degree? Am I looking for a specialized degree only obtainable through graduate school? Do I have the motivation and desire to commit myself to the time and effort demanded by graduate school programs? Is it better for me to go part-time or get some work experience first?
To assist you in your decision-making, it may be beneficial to seek out a professional in the field you are considering and ask them to do an informational interview. How did they decide to go to graduate school? How did they select a program? What was it like? Make an appointment with the Career and Personal Development Office to discuss your questions and formulate a plan 610-358-4595.
Finding a program that fits your goals and professional interests is essential to a successful graduate school experience. Keep in mind that just because a program is in the top rankings by U.S. News & World Report doesn’t mean it’s a guaranteed best fit for you. Consider the following criterion when selecting a program:
• Admissions Requirements: do your qualifications (i.e. GPA, co-curricular
experiences, coursework, (test scores) meet the minimum requirements?
• Program Characteristics: what is the faculty to student ratio? How long does it take
to complete the curriculum? What is the reputation of the program, and how does it
measure with comparable programs? Does the philosophy/emphasis of the program fit
with my interests and values? What are the facilities like? Will I be required to do
research, internships, or a thesis?
• Faculty: what are faculty specialty areas or research interests? What kind of
involvement have they had in their respective fields? Are they well known in their
areas of expertise? Have they been active in research or publishing (tip: read some of
their publications!)? What are their distinguished achievements?
• Alumni: what are graduates of the program currently doing? What was their
experience like in the program? What are the statistics on finding employment after
• Financial Aid: what kind of financial aid is available? How many students secure
graduate, research, or teaching assistantships? What percentage of the tuition is
covered through these opportunities? Are their scholarships available?
What do I need to apply?
Different programs have different admissions requirements. It’s important to
keep track of what each program requires as well as the deadline dates for each. You
may want to keep a spreadsheet for each school you are researching. Below are some of the common requirements, depending on the type of program:
• Official Transcript: this can be obtained through the Registrar’s Office in the
• Exam Scores: check to see what, if any, tests scores are required (i.e. GRE, Miller Analogies Test, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT).
• Portfolio: some programs, such as those in the arts, require a portfolio which
showcases your work.
• Essays & Personal Statements: these writing samples should be taken very
seriously. Your essays should be tailored to the specific schools to which you’re
applying. For advice on writing your essay contact the Career and Personal Development Office 610-358-4595.
References: choose individuals (i.e. professors, advisors, internship supervisors) who have seen your best work and recognize your potential. Talk with them about your goals, and ask if they would be comfortable serving as a reference for you. Provide them with a résumé, unofficial transcript, and work sample so they can see the extent of your achievements. Be sure to give them plenty of time (at least 1 month) to complete their references for you, and provide reasonable deadlines. Also, include a stamped, addressed envelope for them to mail their recommendation forms. Remember to send your references a thank you note!
Interview: some programs require an in-person interview before they make their final decision. It’s critical that you take time to practice! Take advantage of a practice interview session available through the Career and Personal Development Office 610-358-4595.