Guide to Graduate School
Graduate or Professional School may be a necessary step in your career journey. University Career Services has resources available to students in need of further education.
In this Guide:
- Is Graduate School Right for you?
- School Specific Resources
- Evaluating Programs
- Application Information & Timeline
Undergraduate experience is about discovering yourself and your professional interests. Graduate school is a place for those who are firmly committed to a career path that requires additional training.
Many Rutgers students plan to go on to graduate school at some point in their careers. For students entering higher education, law, and medicine, advanced degrees are required, and a major decision is whether to attend now or later. Some students go straight from their undergraduate programs but the majority plan to enroll later.
It’s important to do your homework and gain a better understanding of what’s needed to succeed in the work you choose. In some cases, you may flourish with only a bachelor’s degree.
Assess your readiness:
Q. Is grad school a way to avoid a job search or to escape from a tight job market?
A. Both job search and economic fluctuation are inevitable. You will face both throughout your life.
Q. Are you uncertain about how your undergraduate major will ‘get you a job’?
A. The link between an undergraduate major and a job is not at all clear in many professions. Philosophy majors work on Wall Street, and Economics majors join nonprofits. See for yourself by visiting What Can I Do with This Major? (coming soon) or searching the Rutgers Student-Alumni Career Connections by major.
Q. Heard about a ‘hot’ career or industry and you want to break in?
A. Graduate school is a path for students who are committed to a specific field of study. It is not designed to explore or “try things out” in the same way as an undergraduate liberal arts degree.
- Med School & Health Related Professions
- Law School
- Business School
- Arts & Sciences
- PhD Programs
Additional Specific Information:
Medical School and Health Related Programs:
- Association for American Medical Colleges (AAMC): Resources for Future Physicians
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- Official GMAT Website
- The Financial Times: Domestic and International Rankings
- US News & World Report
- The Wall Street Journal
- Aspen Institute Center: Global Rankings for International Programs
Graduate Study in Arts, Sciences, and Engineering:
Identifying the right program, including specifics about faculty and department, is critical in making your decision. Speak with Rutgers faculty in your targeted discipline and get their advice. Keep in mind most faculty will endorse higher education; after all, it’s their business! Be clear about why you need this degree at this point in your development. Articulating this is one way of getting started mentally on your personal statement.
A comprehensive article focused on doctoral programs and worth reading, even by non-PhD types. The author, Phil Agre, is an Associate Professor of Information Studies at UCLA and a prolific writer. Don’t be misled by publication date; the piece was written in 1996 and updated in 2001. It is ten pages crammed with practical advice for all prospective grad students, especially sections on asking for recommendations and building relationships with faculty at your target schools.
School reputation is undeniably a factor; however, beware of relying solely on this often over-rated factor. In general, the most important criteria involve how well the program matches your specific interests, abilities, academic background, career interests, and finances. Moreover, employers and industries often have recruiting relationships with specific schools, based on a particular program. Research is critical. Do your homework!
Consult with Faculty and Students in Your Field of Study
Talk to professors and current students to learn about their graduate schools and experiences. Read professional journals to learn about professors who are researching and publishing in your area of interest. Take the initiative to contact them. You could gain valuable information to differentiate you in the application process. Seek out those already in your chosen line of work and ask how their selection of school/program has influenced their career development. If you’re targeting employers, contact their Human Resources Departments and ask where they recruit graduate students.
Evaluate the Specific Program
The quality and reputation of an academic program and the professors with whom you’ll work will wield more clout than the overall status of the institution. Seek out faculty and coursework that correspond to your specialized interests. Explore the theoretical underpinnings of the program. Stay focused on how the program will help you get to the next step of your career.
Use the Rutgers Student-Alumni Career Connections
Numerous alumni have offered to share their professional and academic experiences with you. Identify those in your chosen career and ask about the requisite training. Find alumni who have earned graduate degrees ~ especially one(s) you’re researching ~ and learn from their advice.
Consider the Best Financial Aid Package
Which school offers you the best deal? Your package will depend on how much a school wants you. This might include financial support, assistantships, fellowships, work-study, and loans. Inquire about the duration of funding and the possibility of increased funding depending on your academic performance.
For a comprehensive list of criteria that you should consider, here is a helpful article: http://www.quintcareers.com/graduate_school_criteria.html
- Testing Information, Letters of Recommendation, Personal Statements, Transcripts etc. (coming soon).
- Application Timeline (coming soon)