Explore Graduate & Professional School
Is Graduate School Right for You?
Where Should You Go to Graduate School? Consider these Key Criteria:
- Interest in the Field. Your interest in and commitment to your field are probably the most important factors. If you’re uncertain about what to study, that’s a clue to wait.
- Availability of a Degree Program. Do research to see which universities offer the programs that meet your interests. Look beyond the catalog to determine if a program is right for you.
- Career Opportunities. What is the job outlook like for the next few years? What are the current job prospects in the field? What are future projections? Remember that job markets are bound to change—for better or worse—during any four-to five-year period.
- Quality. Key factors in assessing quality are faculty, facilities, student body and reputation. For graduate programs requiring extensive library research, inquire about the size of the institution’s library holdings to ensure resources will be available when needed. To determine quality, talk to professors and professionals in the field.
- Cost. The cost of graduate education varies significantly. Many graduate programs in the arts and sciences offer students a “package,” which is a combination of tuition remission, fellowships, and teaching assistantship support, particularly for Ph.D. programs. Others, especially the professional schools, provide little or no support.
- Location. Do you prefer urban, suburban or rural locations? Consider the accessibility of mass transit, commuting time and costs, and proximity to other educational institutions, research institutes, and libraries. If you are considering law school, think about schools located in geographical areas where you would like to establish your professional affiliations or to apply for the bar exam. Other careers such as teaching, counseling, and social work will offer certification in the state you graduated in.
- Size. Institutional size provides a clue to the overall environment, character, academic resources, class size, and student-faculty ratios.
- Credit vs. Non-Credit. An increasing number of non-credit, non-matriculated, and extension-type programs might be more appropriate than traditional degree programs.
How Do You Get Admitted? There are six key aspects to the graduate admissions process:
- Undergraduate Preparation. Be sure you know the specific academic requirements of the program.
- The Application. This form may be your only contact with an admissions committee and the impression you make is critical. If essays or personal statements are required, make sure you write in a clear, concise, and grammatically correct style. Have your statement critiqued by a professor and/or career advisor.
- Credentials. Graduate and professional schools require three items in support of the application: transcripts of your college work, recommendations, and standardized test scores. Transcripts are obtained from the Registrar, who will forward your official transcript to the school to which you are applying. Recommendations should be from professors or professionals in the field and from individuals who know you and your work well; letters from well-known individuals are a plus. If your schools require providers of recommendations to submit letters by postal mail, be sure to set up and utilize your online credentials file at Interfolio.com.
- Standardized Tests. Make sure you give yourself enough time to adequately prepare. Depending on the type of program to which you are applying, the weight/value of the standardized tests relative to your admission can vary.
- Interviews. Interviews are required for many health professions and doctoral programs. Before an interview is arranged, you should prepare by learning more about the program and providing a clear impression of who you are.
- Deadlines. Note all deadlines, including portfolio submissions (for studio programs), interviews (if required), and standardized tests. Create a timeline to keep track of all deadlines and help you maintain your focus. Apply as early as possible. Early applications demonstrate a strong interest and motivation in the program.
When Should You Begin Graduate School? If your goals are clear and financial resources are available, consider studying for a master’s or doctoral degree shortly after graduation. If your career goals are not yet well established and your resources are insufficient, you should probably wait several years.
**You can get additional information and assistance with your graduate school plans by scheduling an appointment with Career Exploration and Success using your Rutgers Handshake account and visiting our website at careers.rutgers.edu.
Planning and Applying to Graduate or Professional School
- Explore your career interests. Is a graduate degree necessary to reach your career goals?
- Use organizational tools such as a planner to keep yourself focused and consistent with your work.
- Identify and research schools/programs related to your career interests.
- Speak with faculty members, alumni, and professionals in your field of interest for professional insight!
- Have a clear idea of what you want in a graduate/professional education in order to apply to programs suited to your needs.
- Identify potential writers for letters of recommendations and begin your requests.
- Explore and research potential financial aid resources.
- Note financial aid deadlines for schools to which you are applying.
- Engage in and/or continue involvement in experiential learning opportunities (e.g., research, internships, service-learning, fellowships, etc.).
- Develop a list of programs/schools to which you will apply. Consult with faculty and students from each program.
- Continue consulting faculty and advisors for recommendations.
- Attend workshops and utilize services offered via Career Exploration and Success during the application process (e.g., Planning for Graduate School workshop, mock interview practice, personal statements/essays critique, etc.,).
- Prepare for required standardized tests (e.g., the GRE, and/or GRE Subject Test; if applicable, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT) and register to take them.
- Finalize list of programs/schools you will apply to—include at least one “safety sure-shot” and one “dream school long-shot.”
- Register to take all required test(s) and have scores sent to schools.
- Allow approximately 10-15 days after test date for scores to be released to schools—computer version.
- Allow at least six weeks after test date for scores to be processed—paper version (e.g., if the application deadline is February 1, make sure you’ve taken the test by November 1).
- Request official transcripts.
- Begin completing graduate/professional school applications.
- Begin drafting and revising your personal statements/ essays.
- Stay in touch with those who are writing your letters of recommendation and make sure they have information and instructions on where and how to submit letters.
- Follow-up with schools to confirm receipt of materials and that all is complete. If you have not already, make plans to visit schools/programs to which you are accepted.
- Once you decide on a program to attend, withdraw applications from all other schools.
- After receiving notification of acceptance to the program of your choice, send the required deposit and notify other schools to decline acceptance.
- Send notes of appreciation to those who assisted you through the process (e.g., writers of recommendation letters, faculty, alumni).
Guidelines for Writing the Personal Statement
The Writing Process
- Accentuate your strengths.
- Paint pictures and tell stories about what makes you special.
- Find out the specific orientation and philosophy of the graduate program. Adapt and refine your statement to fit.
Visit Career Exploration and Success (CES).
You can schedule an appointment with Career Exploration and Success for a personal statement critique. Send your personal statement via email to your career advisor at least two business days (Mon-Fri) before your appointment.
To schedule an appointment, visit: careers.rutgers.edu/handshake