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Grad School Basics

Is Graduate School Right for Me? | Finding a Grad School or Professional Program | Paying for Grad School

Is Graduate School Right For Me?

Pursuing an advanced degree is an extensive commitment in terms of time, money and hard work. Graduate school is not a plan; it is a step in the plan. Deciding on your plan means examining where you want to be in the long run, both professionally and personally. Our Graduate School Packet, a great source of information to get you going on the graduate school process can be found here.

Types of Advanced Degrees
Master's PhD Professional Schools
1-3 Years to Complete 4-6 Years or More to Complete 4-6 years to complete
May be more skills based with classes and possible research combined Focused on the Pursuit of Academic Knowledge Prepares one to Practice in a Particular Profession
Usually requires you to pay your own tuition or fees Often includes financial support in the form of tuition and/or a stipend Usually requires you to pay your own tuition and fees
May require completion of a research thesis and/or comprehensive exam Requires you to conduct research for and write a dissertation Requires you to complete coursework and experience with the passing of a national certification exam

Decide if Grad School Meets Your Career Goals

  • Have clear defined Career Goals before you pursue a graduate program.
  • Talk with people in your field and ask about pros/cons of having an advanced degree.
  • If unclear of your Career Goals, take some time off before you apply.

Will attending graduate school increase my income level?

  • If money is your motivation you probably won't be a successful student.
  • Being a graduate student doesn't pay very much so consider your options.
  • Those with Master's degrees make approximately $10,000 - $15,000 more per year than individuals with a Bachelor's degree.
  • Individuals with a PhD make approximately $15,000 - $20,000 more per year than people with a Bachelor's degree.

Will a graduate program make you more marketable?

  • Do you need a graduate degree to advance in your chosen career field?
  • Is a graduate degree necessary to enter into a career field?

Will a graduate program help me affect a career change?

  • For some career changers it might make the most sense to purse a graduate degree to meet their career goals.
  • Can you meet this career change with a second bachelors or certification program?

Which Program is Best for You?

Use a variety of resources to evaluate graduate programs. The reputation of the department/program is far more important than the overall reputation of the school. Faculty in your proposed area of study is one of your most valuable resources.

Evaluate Program Content

  • Are there faculty members who are doing research in areas that are of interest to you and do they have a good reputation? How many students do they supervise? Is funding available to support you?
  • Contact the program coordinator for information on the "profile" of their current graduate students to see if you are competitive. Find out about the average GPA, GRE or other professional exam scores, average age and gender, and number of applicants vs. number accepted into the program.
  • Make a campus visit and ask questions of students and faculty alike.

Admissions Requirements

  • Which entrance exams are required? If it's the GRE do they require the "subject" exam as well?
  • Do you have all the undergraduate prerequisites for admission to the program?

Cost

  • Are assistantships, grants, scholarships or fellowships offered?
  • Does the program/department have a good track record of students obtaining internal and external fellowships and grants?
  • If funding is available through teaching, what are the teaching opportunities, what is the average teaching load, what assistance is available to help develop you as a teacher?
  • Is there funding available to help you attend professional conferences?

Job Placement Rates/Job Search Assistance

  • Where are students going after graduation? Are they finding employment in areas where you would like to work? What are their position titles? What is their starting salary?
  • Are Career Services available to you?

Program/Faculty Reputation/Certification of Program

  • Verify that the program is accredited by the appropriate organization.
  • How accessible are faculty and what is the graduate student/faculty ratio?
  • What is the national reputation of the program and faculty members within the field?

Program Culture

  • Is the program's graduate culture friendly and inviting?
  • Is there good and affordable health insurance for graduate students?
  • Is the location someplace where you can live for the next 2-6 years?

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Finding a Grad School or Professional Program

General Graduate School Sites

Targeted Graduate School Sites


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Paying for Grad School

Many schools have different funding deadlines than application deadlines. Call the department office to ask when funding decisions are made and turn in your application before the funding decision date. Funding may come from assistantships, scholarships or grants. Look at all your options.

Departmental and University-wide Fellowships

  • Mention that you are seeking funding in your personal statement.
  • Mention identity markers that may make you eligible for specialized funding (ethnicity/race, gender, sexual orientation, transgender status, disability status, international status, rural and/or low income background).
  • Check any relevant boxes on your application form.
  • Check department websites for specific application instructions (if any).

Grants and Scholarships

  • Go to Petersons.com and click on the "Paying for School" tab. Follow instructions.
  • Mention that you are seeking funding in your personal statement.
  • Mention identity markers that may make you eligible for specialized funding (first generation in college, ethnicity/race, gender, sexual orientation, transgender status, disability status, international status, rural and/or low income background).
  • Check any relevant boxes on your application form.
  • Check department websites for specific application instructions (if any).

Assistantships

Assistantships are financial assistance programs provided to graduate students through academic employment.

  • Check with individual department for specific information about possible assistantships available.
  • An additional application may be required - check deadlines and requirements.

Financial Aid for Graduate School


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