Graduate & Professional School

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!


Getting Started & Overview

Discuss Your 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:
    • Professors
    • 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)

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.

Compile and Submit Applications

  • Follow the directions set by each school.
  • 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.


Application Checklist

Application deadlines may range from August (before senior year) to later Spring/Summer (during senior year). Most deadlines for the fall's entering class are between December and March. You should plan to meet all formal deadlines; beyond this, you should be aware of the fact that many schools with rolling admissions encourage and act upon early applications.

Six Months Prior to Applying

  • Research areas of interest, institutions and programs
  • Talk to your advisor and professors about interests and application requirements
  • Register and prepare for appropriate graduate admission tests
  • Investigate national scholarships
  • If appropriate, obtain letters of recommendations
  • Contact school for application materials

Three Months Prior to Applying

  • Take required admissions tests
  • Visit institutions of interest, if possible
  • Write your application essay
  • Check on application deadlines and rolling admission policies.
  • Register for the national application or data assembly service most programs use, if needed for medical, dental, osteopathy, podiatry, or law school

Fall, One Year Before Beginning Your Graduate Program

  • Obtain letters of recommendation
  • Take graduate admission tests if you have not already done so
  • Send in completed applications

January, Before Matriculating in the Fall

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE, if required, as early in January as possible

Spring, Before Matriculating in the Fall

  • Check with all institutions before the deadline to make sure your file is complete
  • Visit the institutions that accept you
  • Send a deposit to your institution of choice
  • Notify other colleges and universities that accepted you of your decision so that they may admit students on their waiting list
  • Send thank-you notes to people who wrote your recommendation letters, informing them of your success


Professional School Applications

The procedure for applying to professional schools (law, medicine, pharmacy, etc.), is relatively similar to those for applying to graduate school. Provided below is additional information specific to law and medical schools.

Law School

  • Meet with Villanova’s Pre-Law Advisor, Christina Butler by scheduling an appointment with her via Handshake and select “Pre-Law Advising” as the appointment type. You can reach her at and 610-519-5958.
  • The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is required by most law schools. LSAT information, application materials and the CAS (Credential Assembly Service) is found through LSAC (Law School Admissions Council). Students need to register with LSAC to manage their applications, as well as research schools, learn about financial aid options, and much more.
  • Join the student run Pre-Law Society, Black Law Student Association, and Mock Trial
  • Schedule a tour or sit in on a class at Villanova's Law School

Medical School

  • Students interested in medical school should speak with Dr. Louise A. Russo, Assistant Biology Professor/Pre-Med Advisor (191C Mendel Hall, 610-519-4869)
  • Begin the process as early as possible!!
  • Most programs in medicine require the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test.)


Essays and Personal Statements

Writing an essay or personal statement is an important component of your graduate/professional school application. Career Center counselors are available to assist you with these documents as well as other aspects of the application process.


Peterson’s - Your graduate school personal statement may initially get only five minutes of an admissions officer's attention. In those five minutes you have to show that you are a good pick for the school. What will you say? How will you catch and hold the reader's interest? If you know the answer, then you have a good idea of how to prepare a short but effective graduate school essay that will stand as your personal statement to a graduate school admissions committee when you apply to graduate school. - The admissions essay is a required component of all graduate school applications. Typically it is written in response to a prompt. Graduate programs will often assign specific topics that applicants must address in writing their essay. Sometimes they ask for a generic "autobiographical statement" in which the applicant discusses his or her life, experiences, and goals. The admissions essay is sometimes referred to as a personal statement. The graduate admissions essay is a critical part of the graduate application because it is through this essay that applicants can speak directly to the committee and demonstrate their unique fit to the program. - It is an essay that demonstrates your qualifications for and your commitment to your chosen academic field. You do this by discussing the people, events, and experiences that have inspired you to bring you to this junction in your life. The essay should be vibrant with details and examples, and should scream to the admission’s committee readers, "This is a person worth getting to know!"  That's a tall order for a 2-3 page essay!


Additional Resources & Information

Financial Support

Financing an advanced degree is vital to many applicants. Below is information to identify various resources to finance your graduate/professional degree.

GraduateGuide -The financial aid process for graduate school is different from that for undergraduate study. Filling out a standard financial aid application is no longer enough to tap into all the resources available to you. While the FAFSA is still required if you are applying for federal and state loan programs, it is safe to say that no one form will gain you access to the bulk of the money available for graduate study. In fact, for many school-based awards, no application is needed; merit alone determines the recipients.

While most graduate students rely on loans to fund their education, many students are supported by the universities they attend, by federal programs, or by foundations. Since most graduate school money is decentralized, you will have to contact each departmental office, foundation, or association, separately; locate the appropriate contact person; and complete all the paperwork required to procure funding.

Here are some ways to maximize your chances of receiving aid from these various sources:

  1. The early bird gets the worm, so heed deadlines and apply early. In  many instances, when the money runs out, it’s gone.
  2. Apply to schools with strong programs in your area of inter­est. These are the schools most likely to receive research grants.
  3. Write to large corporations. Don’t ask them about scholarships, but learn what schools have received research money from them. Apply to these schools.
  4. Write to the Grants Management Branch of any private or govern­mental agency that interests you, e.g., the National Insti­tute of Mental Health. Again, ask for a current list of funded schools and apply to these schools. Be persistent and aggressive in your request. Sometimes program officers don’t understand why you need this information.
  5. Make friends with faculty members. They are powerful people. Let them know about your interests and your abilities.
  6. Write to the trade associations that represent your field of interest, for example, the American Bar Association or the National Society of Professional Engineers. Also write to organizations serving your ancestry, your nationality, or your religious affiliation. You’ll find addresses in Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations.
  7. Write to the graduate school’s departmental office as well as the admission and financial-aid offices when you are requesting information. Ask about all university-administered financial aid resources.

Help From Your School

Fellowships, Scholarships, and Grants. This is money awarded by the school either on the basis of merit, special talent, or financial need. In general, these awards cover tuition, fees, and supplies, and may provide a stipend for living expenses.

Research and Teaching Assistantships. You will receive a salary, partial tuition, and possibly health insurance in return for service as a research or teaching assistant. You may be given basic research assignments. You may teach freshman composi­tion. You proctor examinations. In additional to the financial benefits, you gain experience in your field which may be applicable to your thesis or coursework.

Internships. Your college or program may offer internships with businesses or government offices. Your professors may also have connections with organizations that need people in your field of study. Contact your department head or individual professors for additional information.

Employment. You might consider going to work for a university. Many schools discount tuition for full-time employees, and while it will take you a few extra years to complete the program, you won’t have a huge debt burden when you’re through.

Help From Foundations

National Research Council. Students in the Sciences, Social Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering may apply for Postdoctoral and Senior Research Awards through the Research Associateship Programs administered by the National Academies. For more information, contact Research Associateship Programs, The National Academies, 500 Fifth Street, NW, GR 322A, Washington, DC 20001; (202) 334-2760; Fax (202) 334-2759.

Fulbright Scholars. This extremely prestigious and competitive program allows award recipients to live and study abroad. For more information on this and other grants for graduate study in other countries, contact the Institute of International Education, US Student Programs, 809 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017.

Test Prep Services

Test preparation can be as easy as purchasing a book of past tests, forming a study group, or hiring a tutor.  The following list is offered in response to the many inquiries we receive.  The Career Center does not endorse a particular test preparation service.  Examinees should call the agency or visit the website for information on services, schedules, and fees.  Be sure to inquire about any discounts or scholarships.

Graduate Prep Course Help
Prep Course:
Ph: (610)-449-6311
Advantage Education
Prep Course:
Ph: (888)-737-6010
Educational Testing Services
Prep Course:
Ph: (609)-921-9000
DAT Prep
Prep Course: 
DAT Prep Resources
Certification Exam & Job sites.
Get Prepped
Prep Course:
 LSAT Fall Classes
Ph: (800)-508-4473
Focus Approach
Prep Course: 
LSAT Prep Course
Ph: (914)-741-0452

The Study Center
Tips & information for preparing for exams

GMAT Prep Now
Prep Course:
 GMAT Online
Ph: 604-842-5327
Prep Course: Online GRE Prep Service, Computer Adaptive Tests (CATs); Verbal & Math GRE Workshops
Prep Course:
Ph: (800)-Kap-Test
Huntington Learning Center
Prep Course:
Ph: (610)-354-8600
Prep Course: 
Ph: (212)-563-986
LaSalle University
Prep Course:
Ph: (215)-951-1063
Manhattan Prep
Prep Course: GMAT, LSAT, and GRE

MJ Test Prep LLC
Prep Course:
Ph: (610)-525-2840


Parliament Tutors
Prep Course: 
Ph: 215-839-9202
LSAT Proctor DVD
Prep Course:
 Timed Practice LSAT
Ph: 1-877-TOP-LSAT
LSAT Intensive Review
Prep Course: Classroom & Home Prep
Ph: (800)-325-5728
Princeton Review
Prep Course:
Power Score
Prep Course:
 LSAT Preparation Courses
Ph: (800)-545-1750
Sherwood Test Prep
Prep Course: 
Ph: (866) TEST-PREP
St. Joseph University
Prep Course: GMAT
$250 - 2/day workshop
Temple University
Prep Course:
Ph: Center City: (215)-204-6946
Temple University
Fort Washington
Ph: 215-238-1304
Test Club
Prep Course: GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, MCAT, LSAT, SAT and 50 other major tests
Test Masters
Prep Course: 
Test Sherpa
Prep Course:
 Free LSAT Prep
Ph: no registration required
University Test Prep Services
Prep Course: MCAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT  Ph: (215)-Fun-Test

Varsity Tutors
Prep Course: GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT
Ph: (215) 510-6413


Exam Focus
Prep Course:
Prep Course: 
Ph: 1-866-333-3138