Detailed Graduate School Information

Attending graduate school immediately after graduation is a big decision.  Careful reflection on your reasons for wanting to continue your education will help to ensure a sound decision.  Consider the following things before deciding:

Your Career Path -- What do you truly want to do?  If it's a profession you absolutely, positively must pursue, and it requires advanced education, then you're probably an excellent candidate for further education.

Investment of Time, Money and Energy -- Academic expectations rise sharply in graduate school.  You need to be ready to commit significant time and energy to your courses and academic program.  Additionally the financial strains of additional years of schooling can be stressful.  Be sure you -- and your family -- are ready for the added responsibility of a few more years of schooling. 

Your marketability to an employer -- Not every profession requires an advanced degree, so do some research on potential career opportunities before committing to more education.  Additionally, if you have no hands-on experience in your field of choice you run the risk of getting out of school and being over-educated and under-experienced.

Opportunities within the field -- If you do plan to work before going back for that advanced degree, will more education help you move up the ranks of your company?  Have you landed a job in your undergraduate area of study, and now you're thinking you want to enhance what you've learned, or pursue a totally new field?  Depending on your professional career path, advanced education may help you reach your career goals.

Your motivation -- Can't think of what else to do next?  Don't think of graduate school as a way to hide from the job search.  You face wasting a lot of resources.  Two of the reasons frequently given by students who have withdrawn from graduate programs are a dislike of concentrated academic work and a realization that they had not defined their career goals adequately and clearly.  Consider carefully before deciding to pursue graduate school.  Only go if you're passionate and want to develop your skill set in a certain area. 

If you are struggling to figure out if graduate school is right for you consider making an appointment with your Career Advisor in the Career Center by visiting our Appointment Scheduling Pageto discuss the pros and cons and to explore all possible paths.

References:
"Grad School:  To Go Or Not To Go?" Job Choices:  2012, p. 71

When should I go, right after getting my bachelor's degree or after I work for a few years?

There are good reasons to proceed either way, it really depends on your personal circumstances and goals.

Remember the counselors in the Career Center can help you figure out if graduate school is the right choice for you now.  Consider making an appointment by visiting our Appointment Scheduling Page.

 

Go Directly to Grad School

Pros

  • You've already got the momentum and the discipline school requires.
  • You may have fewer obligations, financial and otherwise.

Cons

  • It can be difficult to divest youself of the debt incurred with financing your education.
  • Unless yours is a field that requires a graduate degree for an entry level job, you'll be coming out of school with little professional work experience and trying to compete for higher positions or higher pay against candidates with more direct experience in the field.

 

Go to Work First

 Pros

  • A few years on a job can give you a different perspective on what's important about your education.
  • Your employer may offer tuition reimbursement as part of its benefits package or you can save money to pay for your education.
  • You can gain a deeper understanding of your field through hands-on experience and what niche you want to pursue.
  • You can learn what problems need to be solved, generating research ideas.

 

Cons

  • It's easy to get addicted to a steady paycheck.
  • Your choice to go back to school may require financial sacrifices from the other people in your life.

How do I find a graduate school for me?

To select a graduate program, establish important criteria for yourself:

  • Level of program (Masters, PhD)
  • Geographic location
  • Length of program
  • Accreditation of program
  • Quality of faculty
  • Practicum/internship requirement
  • Placement % for graduates
  • Application requirements
  • Financial aid opportunities
  • Adequacy of facilities
  • Overall reputation
  • Cost

Web sites to find and research graduate/law/medical schools

Ranked Graduate Schools

Check out this handout on the ideal timeline for preparing graduate school applications.  If you are planning to apply to medical school then check out this fantastic resource from Johns Hopkins University:  The Medical School Application Process from A to Z.

To review all the steps and components of applying to graduate school and design your own timeline for the process, visit our Appointment Scheduling Page to make an appointment with a counselor in the Career Center.

Typical Admissions Requirements 

  1. A baccalaureate degree
  2. A minimum grade point average (3.0 or better).  Your GPA in your major rather than your cumulative GPA may be used for this criterion.
  3. Some preparation in the proposed field of study.
  4. Other experience relevant to the proposed field.

 

Typical Application Process

Usually you will be required to supply the following:

  1. A completed application
  2. A resume
  3. An official transcript from the Registrar's Office
  4. A personal essay/statement
  5. The required tests such as the GRE, GMAT, MCAT, etc.
  6. The application fee (usually around $50)
  7. Letters of recommendation

 

Related Web Sites

To review all the steps and components of applying to graduate school and design your own timeline for the process, visit our Appointment Scheduling Page to make an appointment with a counselor in the Career Center.

 

Want to see what tests or test prep classes are being offered at Stockton?  Visit the Continuing Studies web site and click on "Browse All Courses" to find the test or class that interests you.

 
 
 
 
 
 

NOTE:  As of 2003 the VCAT test is no longer being administered

 

When asked to name the most important part of the application, many admissions officers answer the personal statement, also referred to as the Statement of Goals and Objectives, Admission Essay, Autobiographical Essay, or Letter of Intent.  Typically, admissions members are looking for interesting, insightful, revealing and non-generic essays that suggest you have gone fully through a process of careful reflection and self-examination.  A persuasive personal statement may even help you overcome the handicap of a low GPA or graduate test score.

To be of value, the personal statement must bring light to bear on your ability, motivation and special perspective.  Do not bore the Admissions Committee by repeating application information.  Make your statement fresh, lively, different.  Try to answer the question, what's most important for us to know about you?  This statement may be the first nonnumeric evaluation the graduate school has for you.  It is your sales tool.  Be careful, though.  If you are required to answer a specific question, make every effort to respond to it. 

 

Here are some tips:

  • It's what you say AND how you say it
  • Don't guess as to what the readers are looking for - follow instructions
  • Find an angle and tell a story
  • Be personal, if appropriate
  • Address any inconsistencies
  • Grab the reader's attention with your first paragraph
  • Be positive and upbeat
  • Avoid controversial subjects
  • Express yourself clearly and concisely
  • Adhere to word limits
  • Make clear why you are choosing this program/school over any others
  • Avoid cliches
  • Be honest!

 

For assistance with your essays:

Advisors are available in the Career Center to proofread and review essays for content. Visit our Appointment Scheduling Page to make an appointment.

Related Web Sites

Most students are quite surprised to find that interviews tend to be highly conversational, and the interviewer's purpose seems to be to get to know the student.  However, you should be prepared for anything; group interviews and two interviewers to one student are not unheard of, but you'll usually encounter a one-on-one situation.  Interviews typically last anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes.  Most schools will have from one to four interviews.  Many schools will have as one of their interviews a meeting with the admissions dean or someone else who will be asked to assess the student's academic record as well as his/her personal attributes.

Graduate School Handout - Includes possible questions to expect in a graduate school interview

Interviewing page - A wealth of resources on how to prepare before, during and after interviews

 

So you want to go to graduate school, but think you can't afford it?  Got too many loans already?  Parents fed up with supporting you and wondering why you don't go out and get a job?  Are you a good student?  Read on; in the best of all worlds, you not only can get into graduate school, but also get paid while there.

Financial aid for graduate school is different from that for undergraduate study.  After the bachelor's degree, income-based financial aid, such as Pell Grants or SEOG, cease to exist.  Instead, graduate students are supported by the universities, federal programs, or foundations.  Support from the university is the most common, and generally takes on these forms:

Tuition scholarships or waivers.  Most common at private universities and, considering the high tuition, are very valuable.  The trouble with them is that you can't eat a scholarship for dinner.  Combined with an outside job or a loan, however, they make all the difference.

Assistantships.  Every student who goes to a large university knows what a teaching assistant is.  TAs are the graduate students who teach and oversee laboratory sections and some teach their own classes.  Some universities also have graduate assistantship positions in admininistrative offices where they assist with programming or services for students.  What most students don't realize is that TAs and GAs are part-time employees of the university; they get a monthly salary and perhaps a reduction in tuition as well.  That's how they finance their graduate education.

Research Assistantships.  In addition to teaching and graduate assistantships, there are research assistantships.  Research Assistants (RAs) who help professors do their research, in laboratories, in libraries, in offices or anywhere research goes on.  Often what they do develops into published papers or a thesis - that's an important part of being an RA but RAs too, are part-time employees as well as students, earning a monthly salary and perhaps getting a tuition reduction.

Fellowships.  Support from outside the university comes from fellowships offered by federal agencies and foundations and are largely reserved for students seeking the doctoral degree.  The most competitive fellowships provide $10,000 to $16,000 per year for several years at any school, with all tuition and fees paid.

Loans.  If you are confident of your future, especially if you are in a field where lucrative employment is possible, loans are an option.  Financing an entire graduate career with loans is not recommended or desirable, but many graduate students do supplement their incomes with loans.  A large percentage of students in Master's degree programs such as the MBA, and law school, support themselves with loans.

Related Web Sites

  • Gradsense - a great site that offers a wealth of tips and resources on responsibly handling financial decisions relate to graduate school
  • Cost of Living Info - a great resource for calculating and budgeting for expenses in grad school
  • FAFSA.com - General financial aid web site from federal government
  • FastWeb.com - General information about financial aid
  • FinAid - Good overall site.
  • Gradschools.com - Directory of fellowships searchable by program type
  • GrantsNet - Continuously updated database of funding opportunities in biomedical research and science education.
  • GradLoans.com

Faculty members from your department or area of study can be a tremendous resource to you if you are planning to apply to graduate school.  They can be helpful in deciding what programs to apply to, offering advice on application materials, and writing recommendations in support of your application.  If graduate school is in your plans immediately after graduating or a couple years down the road reach out to your preceptor or any faculty member from your area of study.  They can be tremendous sources of advice, guidance and feedback.

The Career Center can also be a resource to you during the process of deciding and applying to graduate school.  Meet with an advisor to discuss the pros and cons of working versus going straight to grad school, resources for finding and exploring grad programs and help with all aspects of the application process.  Advisors can help you plan out the timeline and manage all the pieces involved in completing your applications as well as offering feedback and guidance on resumes and personal statements.  Students can schedule an appointment with an advisor by visiting our Appointment Scheduling Page.

 
 

J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, once said, "We are all failures - at least, the best of us are."  This quote can serve to remind us that without making an attempt, we cannot succeed in anything.

No one likes to admit the possibility of failure, but if you find yourself not admitted to the graduate schools you applied to, it is important to view this as a setback rather than a defeat.  The fact that you were not admitted does not mean you are unsuitable for graduate level work.  The schools to which you applied could have lacked the funding to let in everyone they would have liked or they may have simply had an overwhelming number of qualified applicants.  The professors reviewing your application could have had different interests than yours, or they could have just made a mistake and turned away applicants who would have done very well in their program. 

The issue is what can you do now?

Improve references, test scores and essays
Applying to graduate school is much easier when you are already familiar with the process.  Most people's test scores improve when taking the tests again because they know the format and challenges and therefore know how to prepare properly.  Similarly, if you have already written application essays, you are familiar with the basic procedure and can hone your skills and your essay.  You can also have your essays edited by someone who can help you make it the best possible.

Another key factor to the application process is references.  Improving references can be slightly trickier since it doesn't depend solely on you.  However, if you didn't take advantage of providing professors with a clear resume and helpful information, doing so can improve the recommendations they provide.  You can also look for different people to provide you with recommendations.

Work in a related field
Gain experience in a field that is related to your graduate program.  This will stand out because it shows you have a sincere interest in the field and are determined to work in that field.  Counselors in the Career Center can help you strategize how to go about finding a job in a related field.

 Apply to the Master's program rather than the Ph.D. program
If you had originally applied to a school as a doctoral candidate and were not accepted, you may want to look into a Master's degree program as a jumping off point.  The requirements are generally less stringent to be accepted into the Master's program and it provides you with the opportunity to adjust to graduate study and see if it's what you want to do.  After completing a Master's you will have demonstrated your commitment to graduate study and should have a far easier time being accepted to the doctoral program of your choice.

Apply as a non-degree student
Another similar option is to apply as a non-degree student.  This will generally enable you to take classes with the other candidates, allowing both you and your professors to see if you can handle the work.  Students who choose this path often have the opportunity to make an extremely positive impression on the professors guiding the acceptance process and when their application comes up the following year, they can have references included from the department to which they're applying.

Apply to different schools or reapply to your current choices next year
When you are putting in application next year, you have several options to consider.  Your first approach would be to apply to the same schools as this year.  This can be good if you have spent time working with professors from that school or changed your application significantly in some way.  However, some committees will be less likely to admit applicants they have previously rejected, so it may be better to find new schools to apply to.

When applying to new schools, one of the primary methods of increasing your chances of acceptance is to pick schools that are either in less desirable locations or have slightly lower reputations.

Overall, the important thing to remember is that you need to be positive and pursue this as an opportunity rather than a road block.  Good luck!  And to leave you with one final thought from C. S. Lewis, "Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement."

If your graduate school plans did not work out this year consider making an appointment with a counselor in the Career Center to strategize alternatives by visiting our Appointment Scheduling Page.

Post-baccalaureate programs for students who have completed their pre-medical requirements
If you have completed the basic requirements for medical school, but your grades in those courses do not make you competitive for admission, you should take additional upper-level science courses to boost your science GPA before you apply.  You can do this by taking classes as a non-matriculating student at college or university OR you can complete a post-baccalaureate program, which is more structured and enables you to receive on-site advising.

Some post-baccalaureate programs are non-degree programs; others give students the opportunity to complete a master's degree.  Of those that offer a master's degree, several are at medical schools, where students typically take their post-bac courses alongside medical students.  A regularly-updated, searchable database of post-baccalaureate programs is available at the AAMC web site.