There are many important considerations to make when applying to graduate school. These include when in your career to apply, how to decide which programs best meet your career goals, how to prepare your graduate school applications, and identify potential funding resources.
What is Graduate School?
Graduate school is an advanced program of study focused on a particular academic discipline or profession. Graduate degrees are available in almost any subject and come in three levels: master, specialist, and doctorate. Fifty percent of alumni complete a graduate degree within ten years of leaving CMC.
The starting point for selecting possible programs is to gather information online, search graduate school listings, and review individual program websites. You may also want to conduct informational interviews with CMC alumni who have participated in similar programs. Next, you need to evaluate each program using criteria that are important to you.
Reasons to take a Gap Year
Admissions offices typically like to see applications from candidates who have a clear idea of why they are applying to graduate school and how they plan to use their new credential after graduation. If you need help figuring out these responses, then you may need a year or two of work experience prior to applying to graduate school.
Some schools offer undergraduate students the chance to be admitted early into their graduate program prior to gaining work experience. The programs guarantee an early spot in their classes two to six years in the future, so long as these admits secure appropriate professional experience in the meantime. These are highly competitive opportunities and tend to be offered by a small number of MBA and law school programs.
If you plan to go straight to graduate school, then the work begins during your junior year, when you should start researching available programs, exploring financial aid resources, studying for standardized tests, and identifying potential references. Fall of your senior year is when you start compiling your application materials. The spring semester of your senior year is when you would visit prospective campuses and hopefully be invited to interview with them.
Graduate school can be expensive but financial aid is available. Types of funding include paid assistantships, fellowships, grants and scholarships awarded by the program, and loans (both government-funded and private).
Graduate School Exams
Most graduate and professional schools require test scores for admission. These are typically the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for masters and doctoral programs, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for MBA programs, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for law school, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) for medical school, and the TOEFL English proficiency test for international students.
The personal statement (also known as a statement of purpose or letter of intent) is designed to help persuade the admissions committee that you are a suitable applicant for their program. It is the equivalent of an in-depth cover letter, in which you explain why you are applying to this program, your intended use of your graduate degree, and your unique preparation and fitness for study in the field.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are required for almost every graduate school application and should be written by individuals who know you well and can speak to your suitability for the type of program to which you are applying.
A complete graduate school application usually consists of the application form, application fee, official transcripts from all higher education institutions attended, test scores, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. You may also be asked to upload a resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Most programs will not review your application until all parts of it are submitted.