Career Services - Graduate School

Thinking about graduate school?  Applying to graduate and professional school can be a challenging and very rewarding process. If you’re considering this option, we’re here to help.

What you need to know before applying!

Reasons to Attend Graduate School

Graduate programs are designed to focus on a specialized field, discipline or profession.  Students are expected to complete research, internships, fieldwork, and/or comprehensive exams.  Faculty will count on more from the graduate students in terms of class participation, attendance and quality of work that is completed.

Questions you should ask yourself:

  • Is an advanced degree required for my career field?
  • Do I enjoy my career field enough to attend graduate school for an advanced degree?
  • Am I able to finance graduate school?
  • Should I go full-time of part-time?
  • What different programs are offered in my field of interest?
  • Will my personality and skills be successful in graduate/doctoral programs?
  • Am I mentally and physically prepared to undertake a long-term academic commitment?
  • Do I have other needs that conflict with pursuing a graduate degree?
Good Reasons to Attend Graduate School Not So Good Reasons
Your career goal requires an advanced degree; for example:  counselor, lawyer, medical profession, etc. You don’t want to pay back your student loans immediately.
You want to develop in your career or change career directions. You don’t want to get a job or believe that you can’t get a job.
You want/need to gain certification or licensure in a career field. You are unsure on what you want to do for the rest of your life.
You want/need to specialize in a topic that is important to you. You think you’ll never go back if you don’t do it right away.


Searching for the Right Program/School

When searching for the right program or school, you will need to keep in mind:

  • Accreditation – Is the program accredited institutionally or program specific?  Accreditation is not always a sign of quality of a program; however, you may come across some negative consequences if it is not accredited.
  • Admission Standards – If a school distributes this information, look at the number of applicants versus the number accepted.  Pay attention to the GPA requirements, along with the graduate school exam scores.  If the information is not available, ask an Admissions Counselor for this data.
  • Size/Location – What is size of the campus?  What is the size of the program?  Are you going to be comfortable living in this area? Where is the school located?  What is the climate of the region?
  • Faculty – Are they published? Does their research interest you and your career goals?  Are they active within their professional community?
  • Current Students – Communicate with current students to learn the pros and cons of the program and school.
  • Finances – How much would the tuition, books and fees cost you?  Is there any financial assistance available? Do they have assistantships, fellowships, grants and/or loans available to you?
  • Does it fit your career interests?  – If you are interested in a career field, research the graduate programs that will offer specialized courses, research, etc. in that particular field. For example, if you are interested in Addictions Counseling, find a program that will offer those opportunities.
  • Graduation Requirements – What is required to graduate from the program?  An exit project, thesis, comprehensive exam – make sure you understand what will be required of you.
  • Reputation/Rankings – The reputation/rankings of the school can determine the quality of the school; however, do not let this be the only deciding factor.

Once You Find the Schools…

  • Visit the school – You want to make sure that your can see yourself at the school for the next few years.
  • Talk to an Admission Counselor – Admissions Counselors would be able to answer any questions that you may have regarding the school and programs, specifically regarding admissions requirements.
  • Familiarize yourself with what is required of you, throughout the application process.

Graduate School Jargon

  • GA – Graduate Assistant
  • TA – Teaching Assistant
  • Cohort – A group of students that share something in common.  Several graduate programs are cohort based, which means the students take the courses at the same time every year together as a group.
  • Dissertation or Thesis – A research paper that is completed at the end of the course work of the graduate program.
  • Comprehensive Exam – Written and/or oral exams at the midpoint or end of the course work of the graduate program.
  • Full-time status – Full time is 9 credits (which is a heavy load).
  • Failing Grade – In most graduate programs, the failing grade is a C.


Graduates School Application Process

The graduate application process is similar to the process you went through for college.

Application requirements differ substantially among programs, so read each set of instructions thoroughly to make sure you file a complete and timely application. Application materials generally include :

  • Application Form
  • Application Fee
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement
  • Official Transcripts
  • Test Scores (depends on the program you are applying to)
  • A financial aid application
  • School-specific financial aid/scholarship forms
  • Writing Samples
  • Personal interview

Types of Entrance Exams

Some of the information used is from the University of Georgia Career Center website.

Graduate School: Application Timeline
Follow this general timeline to keep yourself on track. Time frames are approximate: Check the deadlines for your schools of interest and adjust accordingly.

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, fellowships, and assistantships. This will help you weed out programs that you can’t pursue because they don’t offer the level of support you need.

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. Stop in at your college’s career center 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 counselor at your undergraduate institution.

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.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers

Online Resources
Peterson’s Guide for Graduate Schools –
Princeton Review –
Graduate School Tips –
Graduate Studies –
Kaplan Test Prep –
U. S. News & World Report’s Graduate School Rankings –
Graduate School Guide –