Graduate school is an opportunity to obtain specialized knowledge in a specific area of study; gain entrance into professions that require it (lawyer, counselor or physical therapist); advance within a particular field of interest; or conduct focused research and scholarship (history, sociology or chemistry).
Application procedures and deadlines vary by institution. Start the research process one and a half years prior to the semester you wish to enroll. Once you have identified an area of study, create a list of schools. Then, review the catalog, department and faculty information, research focus, financial aid, application process and assistantships.
Different Types of Programs
- Master’s: Available in most fields, generally takes 1–3 years
- Specialist: Completed after a master’s degree and generally prepares for certification or licensure in specific field (~1 year)
- Doctoral Degree: Highest educational level, requires original research and/or practical application (length varies greatly)
Research potential graduate schools, paying for graduate school, and test preparation:
- GoGrad.org Idealist.org/grad-schools
- GradSchools.com Petersons.com
- GraduateGuide.com PrincetonReview.com
Select a School
Assess the following to evaluate your fit academically and personally to the available programs of interest:
- Location (distance from family and friends), size (city services and entertainment) and rural verses metropolitan
- Career/academic opportunities for your partner (if applicable)
- Cost of program
- Online programs versus campus-based program
- Opportunities for financial support (scholarships, loans, graduate assistantships, graduate teaching assistantships)
- Research interests are supported
- Short and long term career goals will be met
- Satisfaction of current students
- Size of program cohort
- Faculty/student ratio
- Programs focus, on research or industry
- Prerequisite courses for entrance
- Length of program
- Thesis, comprehensive exam and/or internship requirements
Evaluate Program Quality
To determine quality, consider the program’s:
- Commitment to research and scholarship
- Reputation of the school, faculty and graduates
- Admissions standards
- Accrediting body
Assess Your Graduate School Competency
Note whether each of these statements below are true, false or unknown for you:
- If I do not go to graduate school now, I may never go.
- I can get a job in my field without a graduate degree, but not in my specialized area of interest.
- I am unsure of my career goals and graduate school will help me clarify my interests.
- I am actively exploring both graduate school and direct entry into the market place.
- My professors are encouraging me to attend graduate/professional school.
- I cannot work in my field of interest without a graduate degree.
- The job market is crowded and a graduate degree will make me more competitive.
- A graduate degree will significantly increase my entry level salary.
- I like school; I am not ready to leave the academic environment.
- I have career-related experience as part of my background.
- I have always known that I would go directly from undergraduate school into graduate study.
- Most students enter my field of graduate study directly from undergraduate school.
Considering this information and the research you have gathered, create a list of academic programs of study you are considering on a separate sheet of paper. Also, identify your primary reason for considering graduate school right now.