How to Plan for Graduate School

So you're considering to take some time for a Post-Baccalaureate education. This is a big step for you. Here are some tips before you make the plunge into your search for the right graduate school and the field you choose to master.


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    Give your best effort throughout your bachelors program. Take challenging courses. This will help you decide if you enjoy advanced study and want to pursue it further. Graduate Admissions Committees want to see applicants with strong GPAs, and who earned them while taking rigorous courses.
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    Graduate programs are very competitive. You will need to do well throughout your undergraduate program to get into a graduate program. Many graduate programs require at least a 3.5 GPA and strong GRE scores for admission and to be eligible for a graduate assistantship
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    Inquire about any honors courses that may be available during your undergraduate program.
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    Get involved in research during your undergraduate program. Again, this will help you determine if you enjoy it, and if graduate school is right for you. Alternately, apply for internships to get applied experience.
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    Ask your current professors for advice about graduate school. As them to recommend programs and potential research advisors.
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    Start contacting prospective graduate schools during your junior year. Start by reading the program and department websites. Read about the faculty and the type of research they do. Write to the Director of Graduate Studies and to faculty whose research interest are a good match with yours. Ask if they are recruiting new students, and if yes, offer to send your curriculum vitae. NOTE: Ask one of your current professors to read a draft of your email before you send it. Make certain your email is professional. Begin the email with Dear Dr. Smith, or Dear Professor Jones. Always start with a formal opening. Do not make the mistake of addressing female professors as Mrs. Smith or Ms. Jones, and never use first names unless and until you are invited to do so. Otherwise you are being disrespectful.
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    Ask if the prospective school has open house events or other opportunities to meet the faculty and tour the facilities.
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    After you have identified the programs to which you will apply, ask at least 3 current faculty members to write letters of reference for you. Always ask first. Never list a faculty member as a reference until s/he gives you permission to do so. Give the faculty member at least two months of advance notice and provide a copy of your CV and statement of research interests to help the writer craft the letter appropriately.
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    Apply, and make a good impression with your statement of research interests.
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    Remember, graduate school is not for everyone. Be absolutely certain this is what you want before choosing to attend a graduate program.
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    Consider your options carefully. Speak with students who are in the program you want to attend to hear a student perspective on the program. Consider the finances carefully. Graduate assistantships are intensely competitive. If you do not receive an assistantship, think very carefully about the benefits vs. costs of a graduate degree before taking out student loans.


  • Challenge yourself everyday.
  • Work hard in your current program. Make learning the goal, not the grades.
  • Speak with your current professors about graduate school, and whether it is the right choice for you.
  • Learn from your failures, so you can succeed later.
  • Accept that however well you do, there will always be someone else who is better. That's OK. Focus on the being the best YOU that you can be.
  • Only attend graduate school if you genuinely love your field of study. Don't do it for the money.


  • If you go to graduate school, some people might think you're a nerd. Own it. Nerds rule!
  • If you go to graduate school, you will need to work even harder than you did in college.

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Categories: Applying for Tertiary Education