Career Services

Graduate School - Application Process

Most applications can be done online, but if it calls for a paper application remember that appearance is critical.

Pay attention to deadlines . You may have as many as three: one for the institution, one for the department whose program you want to enter, and one for financial aid.

Formal applications vary from one institution to the next, but usually consist of the following:

  • An application form
  • Separate financial aid application
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Required test scores
  • Some require a personal interview

Following are some suggestions for completing the application process:

  • Application Forms for graduate school, at least in the United States, are typically due in December or January, so plan accordingly.
  • When a personal statement is requested or required (as is the case with most applications for professional schools), the institutions will offer suggestions on items to consider.
  • Good grammar and writing styles are extremely important.
  • Don't hesitate to seek help from faculty members if you need advice and guidance in this area.

All transcripts must be official ; that is, transcripts must be sent to admissions offices directly from the Registrar's Office in Starvaggi Hall. If you receive your transcript first and then send it on, there is no proof that it is "official" and therefore it may be considered invalid. Be sure you pay the necessary fee to have your transcripts forwarded.

Most institutions will request at least three letters of recommendation on your behalf. These letters are useful to graduate admissions committees only if the letters tell them something about you that is not particularly evident in the rest of your application packet. It is best to obtain recommendations from people qualified to evaluate your academic and/or work potential and performance, based on personal observation-namely, faculty members and former employers. Administratively, reference persons will expect you to supply them with updated personal and professional data as needed, recommendation forms (if required by the institution), and a list of deadlines.

Graduate School Interview

Some graduate and professional schools will require an interview as part of the application process. You need to prepare for this interview as carefully as you would one for a job. Below are listed some sample questions.

Sample interview questions:

  • 1. Why are you interested in this graduate program?
  • 2. What are your plans after you complete your graduate work?
  • 3. How did you decide to pursue this field of study?
  • 4. What are your research interests?
  • 5. What courses or experiences at your undergraduate institution caused you to think about graduate study in this field?
  • 6. What are your plans if you should not be accepted into a graduate program?

Questions for the interviewer:

  • 1. What are the academic backgrounds and research interests of your faculty?
  • 2. Do students select, or are they assigned to, an academic advisor?
  • 3. What is the size of a typical graduate class in your department?
  • 4. What is the relationship between academic course work and/or internships?
  • 5. What are the typical duties of a graduate assistant?
  • 6. Is a comprehensive examination or thesis required?
  • 7. What is the placement record of graduates of this program?
  • 8. What is the availability of housing?

Financial Aid

Types of financial aid available for graduate study are somewhat different from aid you may have been familiar with as an undergraduate. General types of aid include the following:

  • Fellowships. On the graduate level, the equivalent of a scholarship is a fellowship. It is usually a straight monetary award given on the basis of scholastic achievement.
  • Assistantships. Teaching, or administrative research assistantships are often available through the academic department or program of study.
  • Resident Assistantships. Some institutions have programs in which graduate students earn a stipend, room and board, or both by working as assistants in undergraduate residence halls.
  • Long-term Educational Loans. Most institutions have loan programs for which graduate students may be eligible.
  • College Work-Study Program. Under this program, eligible undergraduate and graduate students are provided part-time employment opportunities during the academic year, as well as part-time or full-time opportunities during the summer.

A general word of caution: Financial support of graduate education may vary widely from institution to institution. Therefore, it is essential for prospective applicants to thoroughly investigate the availability of financial aid in all its various forms as they go about the admissions process. Both the sources and amounts of financial aid are important considerations. This is another of the reasons why students considering further education should begin the process early.

Make sure you understand the financial obligations you will have when you finish graduate school. You should feel reasonably comfortable that a repayment plan will fit into your budget.

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