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Graduate school programs provide continuing education to students who are looking to further their knowledge and skills in a professional field while also advancing their career goals. There are a broad range of advanced degrees to be acquired through the completion of a graduate school program. Graduate school programs confer degrees of Master (e.g., M.A., M.B.A. Ed. M., M.S,), Doctorate (e.g., Ph.D., Ed.D.) as well as professional degrees (e.g., J.D., M.D., D.O., Pharm D.).
Advanced degree programs generally branch off into two degrees types. Professional schools are graduate programs such as dental school, law school, medical school, pharmacy school, and podiatry school, which lead to professional degrees and proficiency in a particular field. Graduate school programs for academic disciplines in the arts and sciences (M.A., Ph.D.) grant graduate degrees and enable students to gain further knowledge in a specific area preparing students to teach, conduct research, or practice within a specific industry or specialization.
The typical graduate program consists of two parts, the first being one year of structured coursework, the second being a year of work towards a thesis or competency in the desired field. Individuals select graduate school programs that may be in-line, or sometimes vastly differ, from their undergraduate programs. Students usually have options of attending school full-time or part-time and prerequisite courses are sometimes required.
Why Graduate School? Questions to ask yourself
Choosing to go to graduate school may seem like a simple decision, but it is valuable to ask some introspective questions before making the choice. Here are some questions to consider:
Why are you considering graduate school?
• Make sure graduate school is a necessary step for your career goals
When should you consider obtaining a graduate degree?
• Examine whether it is most beneficial for you to enter graduate school immediately or delay entering graduate school for work experience and/or saving money
What is the best graduate degree for you?
• Explore your interests, skills, and values to help discern your focus area for graduate study
What is the best graduate school or program for you?
• Research graduate schools in your field of study
• Review the academic curriculums of the graduate school programs
• Read professor biographies of graduate school’s faculty
Can you afford graduate school?
• Research opportunities for financial aid or work study
• Conduct a honest self-assessment of whether you can afford graduate school at the given time
• See scholarship opportunities offered by the Office of Scholar Development and Fellowshing Advising
Content taken from "Five Questions to Consider When Thinking About Graduate School" from Quintessential Careers. Click here for the full article.
Researching Graduate School
Explore the different graduate school programs in your interest areas
- Petersons.com - Graduate Schools
- Graduate School - Princeton Review
See professional organizations related to your career interests
- Browse Weddle's Association Directory for list of professional organizations
- Research career development/student sections and program accreditation sections.
- It is crucial to investigate the accreditation of a graduate program to ensure it will advance you in your field
Applying to Graduate School
Once you make the decision to attend graduate school, there are several requirements that will be requested by most schools to which you apply.
Graduate schools generally require you to write a personal statement. In a personal statement, you should communicate to the graduate school program your interest in the field of study, reasons for pursuing graduate study in the given field, why you chose their specific school program, and what career or life goals you hope to attain through completing their program.
Here are some things to remember in writing your personal statement:
- Follow any instructions the school gives you about writing the personal statement
- Include an introduction, detailed supporting paragraphs, concrete examples of skills, and a conclusion
- Keep it brief- 1 to 2 pages or specified word limit
- Have your document reviewed by others: Career Center, Writing Center, Faculty
- For more on personal statements: Personal Statement Tutorial
Graduate schools may also require additional short essays that help admissions boards assess whether to admit students into their program. Below are some tips when writing these essays:
- Follow all instructions given for essay
- Focus on work related to field of interest and not personal life
- Provide examples of your experience that show you would be a good student, researcher, and/or teacher (research and teaching experiences)
- Expound on future career goals and research interests
Letter of Recommendation
Graduate schools may ask for several academic and/or professional references to advocate for your candidacy. Below are some tips:
- Choose teachers and supervisors who can say the most and best about you
- Let teachers and supervisors know as early as possible that you need a letter of recommendation
- Allow teachers and supervisors to see your personal statement, resume, and information about the program to which you are applying, as this will enable them to best tailor recommendation to the expectations of the program
Graduate Admission Tests
Most graduate and professional schools require some type of graduate admission test. It is important to research the graduate school’s requirements to see if the school requires a graduate admission test, and if so, what type of test. Below are some of the graduate admissions tests required for graduate and professional schools:
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
- Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)
- Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
- Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The Basics of the GRE
The GRE or graduate record exam is an entrance exam used by most schools to serve as a requirement for admission into a selected program. It consists of 3 sections, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Verbal Reasoning and Analytical Reasoning sections are scored on a scale between 130 to 170. The analytical Writing section is scored on a scale from 0 to 6 points. Something to note, the GRE is offered as a general test, but also has several subject tests, which some schools require you take in addition to the general test.
The GRE is exclusively administered through the computer (CBT-Computer Based Test), which means you need to set up an appointment with a testing center to take it. The GRE test questions are scored by adapting to your skill level. For example it will ask you an average level question, if you get it right, the next question will be harder, if you get it wrong, then the next question will be easier.
Utilize a comprehensive guide offered by OnlineMastersPrograms.org including tips for preparation strategies and exam day, and resources for test-takers with disabilities, and more. Online Master's Programs' Exam Prep GRE Guide.
Submitting Official Transcripts
Graduate schools will request your undergraduate transcripts. Plan ahead to submit your transcripts because sending these documents takes time.
- See the Office of the Registrar- Transcript Services for submitting transcripts from Temple University
Graduate schools will request your resume. This document shows the graduate committee the experiences you have acquired that make you a good fit for the program. Here are some tips for your graduate school resume:
- Be sure to cite relevant coursework, awards, honors, research, teaching opportunities, shadowing opportunities, clinical work, and other work experiences
- Also, highlight any other academic projects, coursework, or skills that are related to the program
- Have the resume reviewed by a professor, friends, family, and the Career Center
Once a graduate school has received your application materials, they may request of you a phone or in-person interview. Here are some ways to prepare for your interview:
- Research the graduate school- Learn about the specific program and be able to ask informed questions about the graduate school
- Review your resume and personal statement- Consider experiences, research, and career goals that you would want to highlight in the interview. Many times, interviewers will ask questions about your past experiences as they relate to the graduate program and your career goals
- Seek knowledge about your field- Interviewers may ask questions about the given field to test your current knowledge of the subject matter. Speak to current professors about relevant resources and conduct personal research about matters pertaining to your area of interest