If you’re thinking of graduate study, the following guide includes information about choosing a graduate program, the application process and more.
We recommend researching programs and consulting with your professors and advisors no later than your junior year. The Career Center can assist with the timing and decision-making process, essay reviews, admission practice exams and mock interviews.
Adapted from: www.butler.edu/post-graduate/pregraduate-school/applicationtimeline
Once you have made the decision to go to graduate school, the next step is to research programs on sites such as GradSchools.com to find one that suits your needs and talents. There are more than 1,800 institutions in the United States that offer graduate degrees. Don't limit yourself at this point, but instead gather information on a broad range of programs.
Talk to faculty on campus and at other institutions that teach in the field you plan to pursue; they often can provide you with the best information that will help identify good programs. Since most universities have websites, the Internet is a great resource to find information quickly and easily. Some sites will provide complete information, while others may tell you where to write to get additional information.
Contact programs directly to get more detailed program information such as courses, professors, costs, financial aid and application forms. In the Career Center’s resource library, you will find books, brochures, catalogues, directories and guides that list information about universities that grant graduate or professional degrees. One such guide is the Peterson's Graduate School Guide, which contains both short and long descriptions of virtually all accredited graduate programs. Additionally, many professional associations will provide lists of accredited programs in their particular discipline.
Conduct informational interviews with current graduate students, professionals, and faculty in the graduate programs you are considering to gain insider information about programs.
Read professional and academic journals related to your area of interest and attend graduate program information sessions.
After researching your options, the next step is to decide where to apply. Here are some factors to consider when evaluating programs:
Finally, keep in mind that there are major differences between applying for undergraduate programs and graduate programs. Your application will be evaluated by a specific department and its faculty members rather than a central admissions office. You should spend time learning about the reputation of the department and its faculty. Evaluate their credentials. Determine how often courses listed in the course bulletin are taught and by whom. Ask questions of the students in the program. Be critical about issues such as faculty turnover, accreditation, and the reputation of the department and its faculty.
Most students apply to several graduate programs. Acceptance rates fluctuate from year to year, so it is wise to apply to some schools to which you have a high probability of being accepted as well as a few “reach schools,” or schools where your chances of being accepted are less certain. In addition, you may find that among the programs to which you are admitted, one may offer a more attractive funding package than another.
Be sure you leave yourself with options so that when all criteria are considered, you matriculate at the school that will offer you the most in terms of intellectual challenge, financial support, and career opportunities. Before you can make that decision, you have to apply. The application package includes numerous components, some of which may be very time consuming to complete. Each program may require different information or different formats, but you can plan on most application packages requiring the following components:
Putting together an application package will take some time. Filling out the forms is the easy part. Taking the GRE, GMAT, or TOEFL, asking for letters of recommendation, writing a statement of purpose, and choosing writing samples or portfolio materials may take months. See the application checklist to help manage this process or come into the Career Center for assistance at any stage.
Most graduate programs require standardized exams, such as the GREs, for admission; however, professional schools usually require different exams (the LSAT, MCAT, and GMAT, respectively). Each of these exams is standardized, meaning that they are normed, permitting students from different colleges to be compared meaningfully. The GRE is similar in structure to the SAT but taps your potential for graduate level work. Some, but not all, schools reveal their average GRE scores in their admissions material and in graduate school admissions books, such as the Peterson's Guide. Take standardized tests early (typically, the spring or summer before you apply) to inform your selection of programs as well as ensure that your scores arrive to the programs early, before the application deadline.
Registration and information booklets are available in the Career Center or online at the websites listed in the chart below. Financial aid recipients may qualify for the GRE Fee Reduction Program or Praxis fee waiver. For more information about the graduate or professional school application process call 410-704-2233 to schedule an appointment with a career advisor.
|Test||When Offered||Length of Test||Subjects Covered||Guessing Penalty?|
|DAT dental||Daily (computer based)||4 hrs. 15 min.||biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, math, reading comprehension, perceptual ability||No|
|GMAT business||Daily (computer based)||3 hrs. 20 min.||verbal, mathematical and analytical writing skills||Yes|
|GRE general grad program||Daily (computer based)||4 hours||analytical writing, verbal and quantitative skills||Yes|
|GRE subject grad program||Nov., Dec., & April||2 hrs. 50 min.||(offered individually) biochemistry/cell/molecular biology, biology, chemistry, computer science, English literature, math, physics and psychology||Yes|
|LSAT law||Feb., June, Oct. & Dec.||3 hours||reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, writing||No|
|MCAT medical||22 times/year (computer based)||4 hrs. 30 min.||biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, verbal reasoning, writing||No|
|OAT optometry||Daily (computer based)||4 hrs. 45 min.||biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, reading comprehension, math||No|
|PCAT pharmacy||June, Oct. & Jan.||4 hrs. 30 min.||verbal ability, biology, chemistry, reading comprehension, math, writing||No|
|Praxis | education||Daily (computer based)||4 hrs. 30 min.||reading, writing, mathematics||No|
|Praxis || subject tests||Sept., Nov., Jan., Mar., Apr., June & July||1-4 hours||subject assessments, principles of learning and teaching (PLT) and teaching foundation tests||No|
These links are provided for convenience or reference only and are not intended as an endorsement.
Graduate and professional schools typically require application essays as part of the admission process to assess your skills, background, interest and motivation for their programs. Use the tools below for help with writing your essays.
There are many sources of financial aid for post-baccalaureate education. Financial aid generally is awarded in two forms: gift-aid and self-help aid. Gift-aid includes grants, fellowships and scholarships (institutional or external) that do not have to be repaid or earned. Self-help aid includes loans that must be repaid, work-study funds that must be earned through work on a campus, off-campus work, and assistantships that pay professional or graduate students for their research, teaching, or other efforts. Most students use a combination of the options below over the years or even during one academic year. Make sure that you research all possibilities before attending a graduate program and annually while enrolled in one.
Teaching assistantships are considered to be part of a student’s training in many Ph.D. programs. Most programs offer a variety of teaching assistantships that range from grading papers or leading discussion sections to lecturing. The compensation for each type varies according to the workload, but most will include tuition remission and health insurance in addition to a stipend for living expenses. Teaching assistantships are competitive as the number available in each program is based on undergraduate course enrollments.
Some programs or individual faculty members offer research assistantships to their graduate students. Research assistants are members of a team conducting research on a specific topic or as part of a lab. These positions occur more commonly in the sciences than in the humanities. Compensation depends on the amount allotted for such positions in research grants.
These assistantships involve working in a university for 10-20 hours per week. Compensation varies with some providing tuition remission and others providing tuition remission and a stipend. Most will include health insurance. Assistantships that are administrative in nature often are available outside one’s academic department or program, so make sure you look for postings from other campus offices.
A resident assistant or RA will live and work in a residence hall on campus. Compensation varies but will include at a minimum room and board.
Grants and fellowships may be awarded by a department, program, university academic office, or outside institution. Not only do they provide money, but they are prestigious and help build impressive curriculum vitae. Some criteria for winning grants and fellowships include financial need, academic achievement, research project potential, demographic background, or any combination of the above. They can be for one year or multiple years and may include fee remission, a stipend, and health insurance. The purpose of a grant or fellowship is to allow students to concentrate on their coursework or research without having to worry about money. Some fellowships require students to work as teaching assistants, while others do not. Neither fellowships nor grants have to be paid back, although some require progress reports to demonstrate that students are using their time and money appropriately. Most programs will include information about which grants and fellowships are available to their students on their websites. If you cannot find such information on the internet, you should contact the graduate secretary or director of graduate studies of prospective graduate programs to find out which grants and fellowships each program offers its students.
Some employers offer assistance for their employees to gain more education and training in a related academic program. Compensation varies, but can include coverage of part or all of book, fees, and tuition costs.
Student loans can be taken out from both private lenders and the government. The amount available varies as do the interest rates and repayment terms. All full-time domestic graduate students qualify for $20,500 annually up to $138,500 total through the Stafford Loan program. Be careful. These amounts add up quickly and could take years to pay back. Plus, depending on the expense of the academic program and local living costs, $20,500 may not cover tuition, books and supplies, room and board, and health insurance.
For more information on student loans and other funding resources, see:
Students applying to academic master's or Ph.D. programs may want to explore the following competitive graduate fellowship opportunities and resources. See each fellowship’s website for details on requirements and deadlines.
Recommendation letters typically are required for application to professional schools (medical, dental, law, business, etc.) and academic graduate programs (academic master's and Ph.D. degrees).
We recommend using Interfolio for collecting, storing and sending letters for application to graduate or professional schools or fellowships. This convenient, online service is accessible 24/7 and allows you to collect and manage the distribution of your letters.