Is graduate school the right option?
If you think that in order to get any kind of career oriented job you need to go to graduate or professional school, this may not be the case. Many employers are looking for college graduates with undergraduate liberal arts degrees. Graduate school might not be the right option for you and instead you should think about gaining experience in your area of interest through internships. Not sure what you want to do after graduation? Graduate school is probably not the best way to figure that out. Instead, consider visiting L&S Career Services.
You might also want to read “Is Graduate School the Best Option?”
However, if you know what your career goals are and you need an additional degree to achieve them, graduate school might be just what you need to do after completing your bachelor’s degree. Many graduate programs are highly competitive and it is never too early to start thinking about and researching possibilities. Each program at each school is going to have their own requirements for admission.
Concordia College in Morehead, MN has put together a document with a lot of good information for undergraduates who majored in English and are thinking of going to graduate school.
If you are thinking you have an interest in applying to a professional school (ex. medical, law, dentistry etc.) the College of Letters and Science has resources specifically for pre-law /pre-health.
What You’ll Need
Research schools thoroughly – once you have decided what type of graduate degree you wish to pursue, research all of your options. Does the school offer courses in your specific area of interest? What type of environment is the school located in; will you be happy living there for the length of time it will take to complete the degree? What type of financial aid to they offer? How will the degree assist you in reaching your career goals?
Talk to people who have been there – One of the best things that you can do to learn more about graduate school is to talk to those who have already done what you are planning to do. In other words, the faculty. Talk to them about their personal experiences and what they know about programs around the country.
Letters of Recommendation – You will likely need 3-5 letters of recommendation for most programs. It is never too early to start thinking about who you might ask to write you a letter of recommendation some day. Here are a few suggestions of things to consider when asking a professor for a letter of recommendation.
Personal Statement – Each program will give instructions about what to include in a personal statement. Most often they want you to focus on why you want to be in their program and what you plan to do after completing the degree. It was mentioned above that grad school isn’t the thing to do when you don’t know what else to do, in your personal statement you will likely need to lay out why you want to pursue a graduate degree and why you are interested in that particular program. The Writing Center has some suggestions for writing application essays you may also want to make an appointment to get individualized assistance.
Standardized tests – You may be required to submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test and/or a Subject Test. Information about when the tests are offered and how to prepare for them are available on the Educational Testing Service (ETS) website. Note that some tests are offered frequently while others are offered just a couple of times a year. Be sure to plan ahead so that your ability to apply does not hinge on whether you can take a required test.
Financial Aid application – There are a variety of ways to finance a graduate education. The first step is to become familiar with the requirements for applying for Federal Financial Aid. As you research programs you will also want to consider what kind of funding they offer students. Some programs will guarantee a certain amount of funding to accepted students others might expect students to obtain funding on their own. Other than federal loans or paying out of pocket, funding can take the form of fellowships, grants, scholarships and graduate assistantships (commonly research, teaching or project assistantships).
*Photo Credit: Door signage notes the entrance to the Graduate School offices on the third floor of Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 20, 2008. ©UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067