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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

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.