There are many steps in researching and applying to graduate school. But once you get started, you will find that it is not that complicated-it just requires that you get organized. The following is a list of guidelines to help you through this process.
If you are thinking about applying to graduate programs but are not totally sure if that is what you would like to do you can be conducting a job search at the same time in order to keep all options open!
Step 1: What is graduate school like? Do I really want to go?
- Does your career field require an advanced degree?
- Do you have a strong interest in the field of study and in obtaining an increased knowledge base?
- Are you enthusiastic about continuing your education?
- Are faculty encouraging you to pursue advanced education based on your academic abilities?
- Will an advanced degree improve your chances for a better salary and job opportunities?
- Are you considering graduate school because you feel you will have no job opportunities with your undergraduate major?
- Are you postponing a difficult job market? Don't feel ready to enter the working world? Will you be academically overqualified without experience for a first job?
Keep in mind: Are your reasons sound ones? Do you really want/need to go to graduate school? These are good questions to be thinking about and discussing. You may make an appointment with a Villanova career counselor as a sounding board as well as professors and targeted industry professionals as you research your options.
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Step 2: Research and Discuss Options
- Discuss possible programs with your advisor, professors, deans, counselors, etc.
- Decide on type of program in which you are interested.
- Utilize graduate school reference books and catalogues.
- Check into accreditation, assistantships (teaching/research/administrative) ,fellowships, and financial aid.
- Contact schools for additional information and answers to specific questions.
- Apply to a "workable" number of programs (Average: Approximately 6.)
- Applying to graduate school is much like applying to colleges: you want to apply to a few "reach" schools, a few schools you will be relatively competitive to get into, and a few schools you feel you have a good chance of getting into.
- Specific resources when researching:
- Peterson's Guides (Career Center Library)
- Professional Associations (Online)
- Other Students & Alumni
- Academic Journals in your field
- Grad School Open Houses/Fairs
- Don Asher's Book: "Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way into the Graduate School of Your Choice" (Career Center Library)
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Step 3: Check Admissions Requirements
- Confirm undergraduate course requirements/proper prerequisites.
- Determine the required graduate test (will be noted in Peterson's Graduate Guide as well as at the academic institutions online site).
- GRE (Graduate Record Examination): primarily required by arts & science, engineering, nursing programs, etc.
- GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test): primarily required by business and management programs.
- Identify number and types of references needed.
- Open credentials file at Career Center which will hold and send your letters of recommendation for you. Your transcript can be added to your file by contacting Registrar's Office.
- Meet deadline and registration dates.
Please note that some programs may require other exams, so check the admissions requirements of the schools you are interested in.
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Step 4: Compile and Submit Applications
- FOLLOW EACH SCHOOL'S DIRECTIONS!
- Your admissions essay or personal statement (if required) should meet all of the specific parameters such as length and set-up. It will probably be revised a few times before you send it. Have someone proofread your essay.
- Double check all your application materials before sending; including letters or recommendation, transcripts, written statements, and any other additional forms.
- Photocopy what you send and date them (for your records.)
- Attempt to send all materials together.
- Contact the school to verify that your application has arrived.
Some schools interview potential candidates as a part of their admissions process. To prepare, a practice interview can help to develop your interviewing skills. Practice interviews with a counselor in Career Center will help you to better discuss and sell your skills and abilities.
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