Resources for College Students
Contained here are resources and tools for
college students planning to attend graduate or professional
school. Included is information about researching graduate
school options, the application process, and entrance exams.
The Next Phase of Your Life
"There is a good reason they call
these ceremonies commencement
exercises. Graduation is not the
end; it's the beginning."
"The fireworks begin today. Each
diploma is a lighted match. Each
one of you is a fuse."
"Graduation is only a concept. In
real life you graduate every day.
Graduation is a process that goes
on until the last day of your
life. If you can grasp that, you'll
make a difference."
"You are educated. Your
certification is in your degree.
You may think of it as the ticket to
the good life. Let me ask you to
think of it as your ticket to change the
You have brains in
your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide
where to go.
You wonít lag behind, because youíll
have the speed.
Youíll pass the whole gang and
youíll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, youíll be the best
of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all
Applying to Graduate School
Tips for Getting into Graduate
Graduate School Application Advice
Getting Started With the Graduate
School Application Process
Graduate School Application
Graduate School Application Planning Guide
Graduate School Information Center
Graduate School Application Timeline
Tips for Completing Graduate School
Outshining Other Graduate School
Kisses of Death in the Graduate
School Application Process
Preparing for Graduate School
Preparing For and Applying to
Graduate School Preparation Guide
Pursuing Graduate or
After you have completed your
undergraduate or Bachelor Degree
program, you might consider
continuing your education to obtain
an advanced degree. Perhaps you are
considering the possibility (and
feasibility) of attending graduate
or professional school in an attempt
to get your Master or Doctoral
Degree. A professional degree
program helps you develop the skills
necessary for a career in a specific
type of work: medicine, law,
pharmacy, journalism, nursing,
social work, counseling, and
business administration. A graduate
degree program helps you develop
skills and conduct research in a
broad academic area: English,
history, political science, foreign
languages, the arts, math,
engineering, education, and the
Among the more popular advanced
degrees are: PhD (Doctor of
Philosophy), MD (Doctor of
Medicine, EdD (Doctor of Education),
JD (Juris Doctorate), MS (Master of
Science), MA (Master of Arts), MBA
(Master of Business Administration),
MEd (Master of Education), MN
(Master of Nursing), MSW (Master of
GRAD SCHOOL OPTION
Is graduate school right for you?
How genuinely interested are you in
this field? How well have you
performed in your past academic
pursuits? Is a graduate degree a
good investment? If so, how and when
will it pay dividends? What schools
have the best programs for my field?
How will this degree improve my job
prospects? How will you pay for
graduate school? What assistantships
are available? In what ways is being
a graduate student different from
being an undergraduate? Is it worth
Talk to people who hold graduate
degrees. Ask your professor for
advice. Visit graduate schools.
Make plans to take your entrance
exam. Apply to more than one
Reasons for Attending Grad School
Should you go to graduate school?
Before you decide, you
should seriously examine your ultimate career goals and motives for attending
grad school before you commit at least two years of your life and thousands of
dollars to a graduate degree program. Here
are a few of the best reasons to attend graduate school:
--A graduate degree is necessary for entry into a chosen field. Some of the
fastest growing careers requiring a graduate degree today include marriage and
family therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist and healthcare
social worker. Other career fields that typically require a masterís or doctoral
degree include law, medicine and education administration.
--A graduate degree is important for upward mobility and increased earning
potential in a chosen profession. While not necessarily required for entry into
a field, a masterís or doctoral degree may lead to upward career mobility and/or
higher pay. This isnít always the case, however, so if earning more money and
moving up the corporate ladder are your only reasons for heading off to graduate
school, be sure that your profession requires a graduate degree for promotions
and raises. Occupations where a higher degree may mean more cash and mobility
include marketing, software engineering, database administration, management and
--A graduate degree is necessary to make a wanted career change. Sometimes an
associate or bachelorís degree in a broadly inclusive subject provides a good
starting point for entry into the job market. However, many workers soon realize
that their initial choice of occupation offers limited growth or job
satisfaction. The answer to transitioning to a better career path may be a
masterís or doctoral degree.
--You have a passion for the subject. Passion is often overlooked, but it may be
the best reason of all. Earning a graduate degree in a subject youíre
passionately interested in can be your greatest reward, and it could lead to
professional benefits that are entirely unexpected.
There are also, of course, lots of misguided reasons to choose graduate school,
--Uncertainty about the future. This is among the very worst reasons to go to
grad school. If youíre uncertain about your future goals and desires, committing
to years of study on the chance that youíll like where you end up could be
catastrophic, especially when so much money and time is involved. A better
choice would be to get out into the world and try a few occupations. Graduate
school will always be there once youíve discovered the right career path.
--The economy/job market is bad right now. Most experts agree that when the
economy is shaky, the number of applications to graduate degree programs
increases. This phenomenon can be traced to students believing that spending a
few years at graduate school is a safe and ultimately profitable way to wait out
a bad job market. This is seldom true, however. Going to grad school to wait for
the economy to bounce back is more likely to leave students years behind in job
experience compared with their working peers and drop them into a job market at
the same time as a lot of other new degree holders who had the same idea.
--Avoiding financial or other obligations. Graduate school may be a way to avoid
confronting some of lifeís inevitable decisions, but they will just be waiting
for you a little further down the line.
--Meeting the expectations of others. Friends and family may be pushing you to
fulfill their expectations of what success means, but since youíre the one who
will have to put the time, money and effort into the endeavor, donít purse a
graduate degree for anyone but yourself.
Making more money. Earning more money is a compelling reason for getting a
post-graduate degree, but only if you are seeking to enter one of those
professions where a masterís or doctoral degree will really make a difference in
your earning power.
--Itís a cold, cruel world out there and the college classroom is warm and
welcoming. Graduate school is an expensive way to avoid the real world, and
youíll still have to face that same world when you leave grad school whether or
not you earned your degree.
Ultimately, the decision to attend graduate school is highly individual. Once
youíve carefully weighed your graduate school options and have elected to pursue
that masterís or doctorate degree, youíll still be faced with some crucial
(From Go Grad)
Schools: Graduate School Directory
Graduate Guide: Graduate School Guide
Review: Find a Graduate School Program
Find the Right Graduate School Program
Graduate School Programs
NASPA: Graduate Program Directory
US News & World Report: Graduate School Rankings
Graduate Program Guide: Graduate School Rankings
Procedures and requirements for
entering graduate school vary from
one institution to another. For
specific admissions policies,
contact the university you are
interested in attending. Begin the
application process early.
Generally, most colleges require a
completed application form (with
processing fee) and official
transcripts from each institution
you attended. Such transcripts must
include evidence of graduation with
a degree. Specific grade point
average requirements exist for
admission into most graduate
Graduate applicants must present a
satisfactory official score on a
prescribed graduate exam specified
by the respective college and/or
department. Among the most common
entrance exams are: GRE, GMAT, LSAT,
MCAT, MAT. Make plans to take your
entrance exam. Apply to more than
In addition to the application form
and the exam results, many
institutions require a Statement of
Purpose or a Statement of
Professional Goals & Objectives. The
format for these essays is
comparable to that of a cover letter
used for job applications through
which the candidate promotes his/her
qualifications and potential for
success in the program. The content
of the essay may include: reasons
for undertaking graduate study,
career goals and objectives,
professional background, level of
preparation for graduate school,
identification of interests, skills
and values, and prospective
contributions to the professional
field. The statement confirms that
the applicant will be a good
representative of the graduate
Many graduate programs require
letters of reference and/or
professional evaluations of
applicant's qualifications to pursue
an advanced degree.
Grad School Application Checklist
By Dr. Don Martin
Here are some suggestions on what to
do nine months before your application deadlines.
1. Plan to visit campuses: It's one thing to review a website, read printed
materials, and communicate with admissions staff on the phone or via E-mail. It
is quite another thing to visit a campus in person. Most institutions offer a
variety of campus visit programs, which they usually describe on their websites.
If you can afford to visit an institution more than once, arrive unannounced the
first time. Seeing how you are treated as a complete stranger can be very
revealing about what the institution is really like. If you can't afford the
time or funds to visit campuses multiple times, consider waiting until you have
started the application process before visiting schools.
While on campus, make sure to do the following four things:
--Meet with an admissions staff member: Come prepared with a few questions to
ask about the program and about the application process. Also ask if you can sit
in on a class.
--Find the student lounge or cafť: Talk to a few students who are hanging out or
studying in popular meeting areas and ask them some questions about the program.
Take notes on what you learn.
--Check out the career development office: When you visit this office, which
might also go by "career services," see if you can obtain a list of the services
available to students. That list will give you an idea of how helpful the staff
is, and how much attention the institution pays to this important aspect of
--Visit the alumni office: Ask officials in the alumni relations office if they
have information about services offered to graduates of the program. In
addition, ask if you can get the names and contact information for recent
graduates who live in your geographic area. You will want to contact these
individuals down the road to find out how they feel about their overall student
experience while enrolled.
Once you have returned from your visit, make sure to jot down some notes for
your spreadsheet, giving a grade for the overall visit, as well as a grade for
each office and class that you visited.
2. Start preparing for standardized tests: Most grad school admissions
committees require the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT. In addition, if you enroll at
an institution in another country, and the first language of the country is
different from your own, you will most likely be required to take a test to
demonstrate your level of proficiency in that primary language.
3. Seek materials to help with test prep: You will most likely learn about these
resources from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the Graduate Management
Admission Council (GMAC), the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), and the
Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). These organizations have
preparation materials available on their websites.
Other companies, such as Barron's, Kaplan, Peterson's, and Princeton Review
offer test-preparation classes. In addition, you can go to your local bookstore
and find a host of printed materials and study guides.
Keep in mind that standardized tests bring varying degrees of stress for
prospective students. Obviously, some individuals do better on these tests than
others. While test scores measure a certain level of academic ability, they by
no means cover the entire academic arena.
Most admissions committees do not have a cutoff requirement for test scores, but
some do. It is a good idea to find out what each of your options looks for and
(From US News
& World Report / Don Martin)
Graduate School Resources
Graduate School Preparation Packet
Letters of Recommendation
Resume Writing Kit
What Do Graduate Schools
By Dr. Tara Kuther
What do graduate admissions committees look for in graduate applicants?
Understanding what graduate schools want in applicants is the first step
in tailoring your experiences and application to make yourself
irresistible to the graduate programs of your dreams.
So just what do admissions committees look for? Their goal is to
identify applicants who will become important researchers and leaders in
their field. In other words, admissions committees try to select the
most promising students. What's a promising student? One who has the
ability to become an excellent graduate student and professional.
The Ideal Grad Student
The ideal graduate student is gifted, eager to learn, and highly
motivated. He or she can work independently and take direction,
supervision, and constructive criticism without becoming upset or overly
sensitive. Faculty look for students who are hard workers, want to work
closely with faculty, are responsible and easy to work with, and who are
a good fit to the program. The best graduate students complete the
program on time, with distinction - and excel in the professional world
to make graduate faculty proud. Of course, these are ideals. Most
graduate students have some of these characteristics, but nearly no one
will have all, so don't fear.
Criteria Weighed by Admissions Committees
Now that you know the ideal to which graduate faculty strive in
selecting new graduate students, let's look at how faculty weigh the
various criteria for admission. Unfortunately there is no simple answer;
each graduate admissions committee is a bit different, but generally
speaking, the following criteria are important to most admissions
--Undergraduate GPA (especially the last two years of college)
--Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores
Sure, you knew these things were important, but let's talk more about
why and the part they play in admissions decisions.
Grade Point Average (GPA)
Grades are important not as a sign of intelligence, but instead grades
are a long term indicator of how well you perform your job as student.
They reflect your motivation and your ability to do consistently good or
bad work. Not all grades are the same, though. Admissions committees
understand that applicants' grade point averages often cannot be
compared meaningfully. Grades can differ among universities - an A at
one university may be a B+ at another. Also grades differ among
professors in the same university. Admissions committees try to take
these things into account when examining applicants' GPAs. They also
look at the courses taken: a B in Advanced Statistics may be worth more
than an A in Introduction to Social Problems. In other words, they
consider the context of the GPA: where was it obtained and of what
courses is it comprised? In many cases, it's better to have a lower GPA
composed of solid challenging courses than a high GPA based on easy
courses like "Basket Weaving for Beginners" and the like.
Clearly, applicants' grade point averages are difficult to compare. This
is where Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores come in. Whereas grade point
averages are not standardized (there are enormous differences in how
professors within a department, university, or country grade student
work), the GRE is. Your GRE scores provide information about how you
rank among your peers (that's why it's important to do your best!).
Although GRE scores are standardized, departments don't weigh them in a
standardized way. How a department or admissions committee evaluates GRE
scores varies - some use them as cutoffs to eliminate applicants, some
use them as criteria for research assistantships and other forms of
funding, some look to GRE scores to offset weak GPAs, and some
admissions committees will overlook poor GRE scores if applicants
demonstrate significant strengths in other areas.
Letters of Recommendation
Usually admissions committees begin the evaluation process by
considering GPA and GRE score (or those of other standardized tests).
These quantitative measures only tell a small part of an applicant's
story. Letters of recommendation provide context within which to
consider an applicant's numerical scores. Therefore it's important that
the faculty who write your letters of recommendation know you well so
that they can discuss the person behind the GPA and GRE scores.
Generally speaking, letters written by professors known to committee
members tend to carry more weight than those written by "unknowns."
Letters written by well-known people in the field, if they signify that
they know you well and think highly of you, can be very helpful in
moving your application towards the top of the list.
The personal statement, also known as the admissions essay, statement of
purpose, and personal goal statement, is your chance to introduce
yourself, speak directly to the admissions committee, and provide
information that doesn't appear elsewhere in your application. Faculty
read personal statements very closely because they reveal lots of
information about applicants. Your essay is an indicator of your writing
ability, motivation, ability to express yourself, maturity, passion for
the field, and judgment. Admissions committees read essays with the
intent to learn more about applicants, to determine if they have the
qualities and attitudes needed for success, and to weed out applicants
who don't fit the program.
School Entrance Exams
Kaplan Test Prep
Princeton Review Test Prep
Educational Testing Services
Graduate Record Examination
Graduate Management Admission Test
Medical College Admission Test
Law School Admission Test
Pharmacy College Admission Test
Grad School Application Tips
By Dr. Don Martin
The final stage of the graduate
school application process yields
both relief and stress for
prospective studentsóas I learned
from my experiences as a former
admissions dean who has interacted
with candidates hoping to get into
their dream schools.
Matt Merrick, senior associate dean
of students at Wake Forest
University's Schools of Business,
agrees. A candidate's ability "to
think clearly and focus" during the
final stages of preparing to submit
an application can make a big
difference, he notes.
Based on my experience reviewing
thousands of grad school
applications over nearly three
decades, here are a few tips for
completing your application:
1. Relax: The graduate or business
school application process is a
major learning experience, and often
applicants learn as they go. Staying
positive and maintaining calm allows
the applicant to be reflective and
"Worrying and obsessing during the
final stages of putting one's
application together will not help,"
Merrick says. "In fact, it will
likely hinder the ability to think
clearly and focus on preparing the
best application possible.
2. Allow enough time: At minimum,
take a few weeks to gather and
compile all of the required
material. Then check and recheck to
make sure all of the elements are in
"Make sure you don't wait until the
last second before pushing the send
button for your application,"
Merrick says. "Believe me;
admissions teams can tell. Even if
it is later in the year, take a few
weeks to prepare adequately,
complete all required sections of
the application, and do a thorough
3. Follow directions: Not following
directions raises questions about
how the candidate might adhere to
policies and procedures once
admitted and enrolled. If there is a
word limit for essay questions,
follow it. If you are asked for two
letters of recommendation, do not
send more. If you are asked not to
follow up via E-mail or phone,
don't. "Following directions shows
respect and in doing so you'll earn
some in return," Merrick says.
4. Be professional: Maintaining a
professional demeanor in all
circumstances is a sign of maturity.
Graduate school is a big deal and
can be stressful; if you're someone
who easily loses his or her cool,
then you're likely not ready.
"It's OK to have passion and
confidence, Merrick explains. "In
fact, it's something we really to
try draw out of our students here at
Wake Forest." It's never OK,
however, to be overly aggressive,
abrasive, or demanding.
5. Focus on content and
presentation: A candidate might have
the greatest GRE (MCAT, LSAT, GMAT)
scores, a superb undergrad GPA, and
impressive letters of
recommendations, but if the
application contains obvious
misspellings or grammatical
mistakes, it's going to be a
problem. Rightly or wrongly,
admissions committees will assume
the applicant was not entirely
serious about his or her
"It's important that candidates not
be so distracted by the content of
their applications that they don't
carefully consider and review the
style and presentation of their
material," Merrick says.
6. Be yourself: Embellishing your
application or making excuses for
weaker parts of your application
will not help. No one is perfect,
and applicants that try to make
themselves look perfect raise a bit
of suspicion. Presenting yourself in
a genuine and honest way is very
important; for Merrick it's a
"fundamental character trait that is
very important to us at Wake
7. Make contingency plans:
Considering a backup plan is not an
indication of lack of confidence.
And it may be a plan less about what
to do next, but how to do what's
"It's not enough to consider the
nuts and bolts, the bread-and-butter
issues," Merrick says. "You need to
reflect on how you'll respond
viscerally if you're denied and have
an emotional contingency plan to
help you move forward with a
Types of Graduate School Essays
Writing Graduate School Essays
Tips for Writing a Graduate School
How to Write a Graduate School Essay
Resources: Graduate School Essay
Tips for Success: Writing the
Graduate School Application Essay
Graduate School Essay Samples
Writing a Killer Graduate School
Grad School Essay: Knock Their Socks
Words of Inspiration
Oh The Places You'll Go (YouTube
Video w Anthony Hopkins)
Oh The Places You'll Go (YouTube
Video w Harrison Ford & Others)
Yahoo: Graduation Commencement
Stephen Colbert: Commencement
Address at Knox College
Steve Jobs: Commencement Speech at
How to Change the World
College Finder: Funniest
Graduate and Professional