Students applying to grad school to earn their PhD or master’s degree must ace their grad school application. All you need is an undergraduate bachelor’s degree and the ability to commit time and money towards your career goals.
You might be about to finish your undergraduate degree or have taken a few years off to work or travel. There are no rules for when you should apply to PhD or master’s programs. The deciding factor should be whether you think it will further your skills and your career prospects.
This article will walk you through the graduate admission process. We will go over the advantages and disadvantages of grad school, how to apply step-by-step, and everything you need to know to ace your grad school application.
What Is a Grad School?
Graduate school is centered around gaining graduate degrees, the most common being a master’s or doctoral degree. Students can also do specialist degrees that provide course work and work experience opportunities to prepare them for specific professions.
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More rigorous than an undergraduate degree, a grad school master’s or doctorate gives you in-depth knowledge of a specific field. In many cases, it will prepare you for professional advancement. Think of it as a focused course of study that will provide you with key skills. You will learn through a combination of smaller classes, internships, and a chance to have your research and work closely evaluated.
Different Types of Grad School Master’s or Doctoral Degrees
It can be confusing what type of graduate program to enter. What you decide to study depends on your career goals, financial situation, and the amount of time you are willing to spend in school.
Different types of graduate schools offer different things. Some offer a wide variety of coursework, while others provide training for a particular profession. Professional schools are a subcategory of graduate schools that offer advanced degrees in things like medicine, nursing, business, electrical engineering, and law.
What Are the Benefits of Grad School?
- Your career goals may require it
- It can help you change your career field
- It can help you increase your knowledge and skills for your current career
- It can satisfy your desire for a focused and more intense curriculum
- You can study them on-campus or online
What Are the Disadvantages of Grad School?
- You will accrue more debt
- It will require many years of study
- Many careers have cheaper alternatives for training and advancement
- If you are unsure of your career path, a grad degree could prove a hindrance more than a benefit in the long run, especially if you later decide to switch careers
Getting into Graduate School
If you feel ready to take on this next chapter of your learning journey, then let’s take a look at some common questions about getting into grad school. Keep in mind that each graduate school will have its own admission requirements and application fees.
How Many Grad Schools Should I Apply To?
The number of applications is a kind of balancing act. Too many, and you may spread yourself out too thin. Too few, and you are putting yourself at risk of rejection. A happy medium would be to apply to five or so graduate schools. We recommend two competitive grad schools, two safety options, and one wild card of your choice.
What Is the Application Process?
Generally speaking, filling out a grad school application is the process of documenting your undergraduate career and academic life in the form of application materials.
Schools will be looking for a good undergrad GPA, letters of recommendation, official transcripts from your education, and prerequisite exams. They will also require an excellent personal statement, a resume or CV, and occasionally a portfolio of your previous work.
You will begin by filling out school-specific forms, typically an online application, with some combination of the items mentioned above. For each of your five schools, make sure you know what exactly the admissions committee requires of you, as requirements vary.
In some cases, applicants are invited to an interview. Make sure to prepare for common grad school interview questions.
Depending on what you decide to study, you may be required to take standardized tests. Check the specific grad school admissions requirements to see if you need a particular GRE score or to take a GMAT, TOEFL, or LSAT examination. You will need a good college GPA for most grad schools, so keep that in mind.
The majority of deadlines fall between the beginning of October and December. Be sure to prepare your application materials in advance. That way, you will have plenty of time to revise. Ideally, you can begin preparing everything at the beginning of the year, making revisions and getting advice from your professors along the way.
Final Application Tips
Grad school is not for everyone, and that is perfectly fine. If you feel pressure from those around you to go, it may be wiser to consider other options that might suit you better. Before you decide, look into professional certificates or other forms of professional development, including online courses.
If you love learning, enjoy traditional education, and want to further your career, graduate school will be a wonderful experience.
Applying to Grad School: Step-by-Step
Taking the application process one step at a time will help you become a graduate student. Take a look through these steps and discover how to ace your grad school application.
Step 1: Narrow Your List of Graduate School Choices
Begin by looking into the best accredited grad programs for your particular career path. Research which ones have the best faculty members, where each of your top schools is located, and what former students have said about them.
Step 2: Research Grad School Application Requirements
Once you have a preliminary list of grad schools, begin looking into the specific requirements for each school. This may help you narrow your choices as you begin compiling what you need for each application. Keeping cost in mind, explore whether these schools help with financial aid, and decide which you can afford.
Step 3: Begin to Gather your Materials
You may need three letters of recommendation from your professors. Give them plenty of time to put these together for you, requesting the favor at least a couple of months in advance.
Before that, consider beginning your personal statement, which can be a challenge at first. For each application, you need to balance highlighting your skills with convincing the admissions committee why you’re a good fit, all while making it personal.
Take your time with this critical component, shaping your statement in a way that is fun to read. Be sure it shows off your skills, conveys why you are a serious applicant, and is true to your personality.
Then create a portfolio of writing samples that showcase the skills you’ve laid out in your personal statement. Go over them with your teachers and university staff to find the diamond pieces for your application, and remember that they may come up in your interview.
Lastly, your resume or CV should be an abstract of your accomplishments. If you prefer, think of it as a concise version of your personal statement.
Step 4: Ace Your Standardized Tests
The next step is to practice and ace any tests you are required to take, enrolling in GMAT or GRE prep courses if necessary. These tests are all completed via computer nowadays, so practice them online to prepare for the real thing. The GRE and GMAT will both take around three and a half hours to complete.
Step 5: Apply to Graduate Schools
Lastly, go to graduate school websites and apply. Each grad school will have a slightly different process, but the forms are usually easy to follow. If you find yourself struggling with your graduate school application, inform your professors, and they will walk you through the process.
Is Applying To Graduate School Worth It?
The decision is ultimately yours to make, but be sure to carefully consider all your options. If your career doesn’t require a graduate school degree, perhaps you can earn a second bachelor’s degree or a professional certificate.
But if the idea of researching a subject you love, writing in-depth about it, learning from trained faculty in an intimate classroom setting, and gaining fantastic work experience sounds exciting, then graduate school is probably worth it for you.
Here’s one final Career Karma tip: If you love the subject area, have the financial means, and have done all the required research, then you’re ready to make your decision.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.