May 2024 Graduates - Complete this survey to share your post-graduate plan.

Prepare for Graduate School

Should you go on to graduate school? Is it the right move for you at this point in your career? Give your decision careful consideration, weighing all the factors, including:

Your career path

What do you truly want to do? What excites you more than anything? If it’s a profession you want to pursue, and it requires advanced education, then you’re probably an excellent candidate for further education.

Are you ready to commit?

Consider your post-undergraduate life plans. Are marriage and family in your immediate future? Graduate school can put a huge financial strain on a young couple already facing student loan debt, not to mention the burden of the time you’ll be spending studying. Be sure you and your family are ready for the added responsibility of a few more years of schooling.

Your marketability to an employer

Not every profession requires an advanced degree, so do some research on potential career opportunities before committing to more education. Depending on the program, you want to have the fieldwork experience as well as graduate school. If you go on to graduate school without having any fieldwork experience, you run the risk of being over-educated.

Opportunities within the field

If you do plan to work before going back for that advanced degree, will more education help you move up the ranks at your company? Have you landed a job in your undergraduate area of study, and now you’re thinking you want to enhance what you’ve learned, or pursue a totally new field? Depending on your professional career path, advanced education may help you reach your career goals.

Admission Standards

What is it going to take to gain entrance into the school and/or program? The admissions process is typically centralized into a system that provides schools the opportunity to evaluate students in six areas:

  • Academic performance
  • Standardized testing (typically GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT)
  • Experiences such as shadowing (though other experiences are also important)
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interviews

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should come from recommenders who believe in your ability to do graduate-level work. You must have a plan about whom you are going to ask and how to do that effectively.  This conversation should take place in person or via phone/Zoom. Do not ask in an email, as you want this person on your team, and the request will likely be received as more sincere in person or over the phone/Zoom. The people writing your recommendation will need to understand why a graduate degree is important to you and what schools you are considering. You never know, but they may know somebody in that program and be able to make a call on your behalf. Lastly, give your recommenders plenty of time to write your letter. Be sure to include your latest resume and couple of key points you would like for them to include in your letter.

Schools will ask if you want to have access to these letters; your answer should be no. The reason why this is important is because it will hold more weight with the school if you waive your right to see the letter. Keep in mind that if you asked the correct references, this will not be an issue. It is recommended that you ask the person if they feel comfortable giving a positive reference. This will give the person the opportunity to decline. However, if they agree, you will have confidence in knowing their input will be positive.

Example of a Timeline:

Once you decided to pursue graduate school, follow this general timeline to keep yourself on track if you would like to attend graduate school in the fall right after graduation.

Junior year (fall)

Many graduate schools look at applicants’ grades from the last two years of undergraduate courses. If your GPA is an issue, it’s time to pull your grades up.

Junior year (spring)

Decide which fields interest you, then start looking for programs and schools that match your interests.

As part of your research, investigate what kind of financial aid options will be available to you at the various institutions, including grants, loans, research, fellowships, and assistantships. This will help you eliminate programs that you can’t pursue because they don’t offer the level of support you need.

If needed, schedule your entrance exams. You may want to take these exams in the spring of your junior year so you get them out of the way (and have time to retake them if necessary) and can spend the fall filling out your applications and working on your writing samples.

Summer before senior year

Most graduate schools look for well-rounded individuals with good grades and some relevant work experience on their resumes. An internship can be an excellent way to gain some professional experience in your chosen field. In some fields, volunteer experiences are also helpful—provided they give you relevant experience and are not simply “envelope stuffing” exercises. Schedule an appointment with a Career Services & Internship Program advisor for help in identifying internship and volunteer opportunities.

Senior year (fall)

Get your transcripts from all your post-secondary education, including an up-to-date transcript for your current institution. Be prepared to have transcripts from study-abroad and other institutions that transferred credits. Line up references and provide them with the information they need to write a complete reference.

Schedule your entrance exams. If you weren’t happy with your scores or decided to give yourself more time to prepare, you can take your entrance exams in the fall. (Some exams offer multiple test dates in the fall, enabling you to retake your exams again if necessary.)

Fill out your applications. Take your time, read directions carefully, and check and re-check your applications to ensure they are complete and error-free. Have someone proofread your applications.

Senior year (mid-term break/January)

Submit your applications.

Senior year (spring)

This is when acceptance letters begin to arrive. If you have applied to and been accepted at multiple schools, you may want to pay another visit to your top choices. Talk about your plans with a trusted faculty member or a career advisor at the Career Services & Internship Program Office.

Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) if you plan to apply for financial aid. (You’ll need your prior year’s income tax return to complete this form.)

Once you make your decision, notify the school of your acceptance. As a courtesy, tell the other schools that you are declining their offers.

If you’ll be relocating for graduate school, start researching housing options in your new location. Can you afford to live alone, or will you need to find a roommate? Does the school offer assistance with housing or pairing graduate students as roommates? If so, call on those resources.

Additional Resources is the leading online resource for graduate school that provides a directory of over 67,000 master’s, doctorate, and graduate certificate programs.

Peterson’s: The Peterson’s graduate schools page provides articles, program searches and suggestions/tips with regards to graduate school planning.

Graduate Guide: The Graduate Guide is a directory of graduate schools in the United States and Canada that will help you find colleges and universities that offer accredited graduate programs that most interest you.

The Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR): The MSAR provides a medical school directory with information on both U.S. and Canadian medical schools.

The Princeton Review: The Princeton Review graduate school page allows you to search for graduate school programs throughout the U.S. by state, program, enrollment size, and institution type.

U.S. News & World Report: The U.S. News Best Graduate Schools provides rankings, date and advise to help prospective students research graduate programs.

Graduate Admission Tests

Graduate Record Examinations (GRE): The GRE is the most widely accepted graduate admission test in the world.

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): The GMAT is the standard exam used for admission to business school. Accepted by more than 2,300 institutions and universities, it’s required as part of the application for most MBA programs.

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): The MCAT, developed and administered by the AAMC, is a standardized, multiple-choice examination created to help medical school admissions offices assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT): The LSAT is the most trusted test in law school admissions and the only test accepted by all ABA-accredited law schools.

Admission Test Preparation

The Princeton Review: The Princeton Review offers a variety of test preparation options for the DAT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, OAT, and TOEFL.

Kaplan: Kaplan offers a variety of test preparation options for the DAT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, OAT, and PCAT.


Career Resources

Graduate School Planning

Graduate School Search is the leading online resource for graduate school that provides a directory of over 67,000 …

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