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  1. Thinking about Graduate School? What you need to know Southwest Minnesota State University Career Services, BA 156 507.537.6221.

  2. Overview • Should I apply? • How to pay • Choosing a program • Managing the application process • Standardized Tests • Personal Statements • Letters of Recommendations • Application Timelines

  3. What you need to know Applying to Graduate School is difficult and time consuming. Start Early! There are limited spots which lead to high standards and fierce competition. A thorough approach to the application process will increase your chances of getting accepted.

  4. Good Reasons to Apply You need an advanced degree for your career goal An advance degree will create additional career opportunities You enjoy learning and it would provide personal satisfaction You like to do research Reasons not to Apply You’re trying to postpone making a career decision You’re trying to avoid the job market You’re going to graduate school to please someone else You don’t want to leave the familiar atmosphere of school Should I Apply?

  5. Paying for Graduate School Not many people have the financial ability to pay for the entire expense of graduate school. Some options available to students are: • Teaching Assistantships • Research Assistantships • Fellowships • Grants • Tuition Waivers • Loans

  6. Paying for Graduate School Teaching Assistantships require you to teach undergraduate courses or labs. Tuition is usually waived and a stipend is often granted. A teaching assistantship is very prestigious but the workload is heavy. Research Assistantships are linked to a research project conducted by a specific professor. The best way to earn a research assistantship is to learn as much as you can about the research going on in the university.

  7. Paying for Graduate School Fellowships are large awards given to a student with great academic promise. There are two forms of Fellowships: • Internal Fellowships are given by the graduate program • External Fellowships are granted from outside sources • Yale Daily News Guide to Fellowships and Grants — available for check out in the SMSU Career Services’ library • Visit (under scholarships-scroll down to graduate school) or

  8. Paying for Graduate School Grants are smaller than fellowships, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Grants work exactly the same way as fellowships. Tuition Waivers are more common for Ph.D. candidates and for candidates in the laboratory sciences. They are less common for master’s degree candidates in the humanities or for professional programs.

  9. Paying for Graduate School Loans Students use loans to fund the gap between what hasn’t been received through grants and waivers. Plan on preparing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and/or GAPSFAS (Graduate and Professional School Financial Aide Service). Both are available from any graduate financial aide office. Most of your undergraduate student loan will be deferred while you’re in a full time graduate program.

  10. Choosing a School or Program Not sure where to start…. Here’s how to build your list of potential schools: • Professors/Advisors • Alumni • Practicing Professionals • Career Services • Peterson’s Guide--available in print form in Career Services or online at • Visit for information on Ph.D. programs

  11. Check out the following when deciding on a program. What is the reputation of the school? How long will the program take? Do you like the focus of the program? Are there professors with expertise in my area of interest? Are there adequate academic resources? Are you willing to live in this area for 3-5 years? What is the professional placement rate of the graduate students? What kinds of financial aide is offered? What is the cost of school? Cost of living in the area around the school? What kind of social life can the school or community offer? Choosing a School or Program

  12. Choosing a School or Program Research the programs of interest on-line or request information directly from the school. Find out the following: • Application of admission • Financial aide information • Specific information about the program

  13. Choosing a School or Program Narrow the search. Rank all the graduate programs you have been researching in order of interest. Divide the schools into: • Schools you are pretty sure you can get admitted • Schools you probably can get admitted • Schools which would be difficult to be admitted. Choose 2 schools that fit into each category. Expect to apply to at least 6 programs.

  14. Managing the Application Process Organization is key—Here are some tips to keep your information organized: Buy inexpensive colored folders—one for each program Attach the application checklist to the folder. Checklists can be found: On the school’s website, or Requesting a hard copy application from the graduate program Determine the application deadline. Does the school use a rolling admission process (evaluating applications as they arrive) or have a traditional deadline (all applications are evaluated after a set date)? Establish a timeline

  15. Application Timeline The following timeline is designed to provide a brief overview of the application process. It assumes you are apply for fall admission. Please keep in mind that not all of the steps will be included. Check with each individual school for specific entrance requirements

  16. Application Timeline (continued) Junior Year: • Research programs; narrow down schools • Talk with faculty members in your field about your graduate study goals • Meet with professors you’ll request letters of recommendations from • Talk with Career Services about application requirements • Prepare for graduate admissions test • Investigate Fellowships, grants and graduate assistantships

  17. Application Timeline (continued) Summer before Senior Year: • Read school catalogs either online or through requested materials • Organize the application process using the tips listed under “Managing the Application” • Take practice exams or test prep courses for required admissions test • Register for fall exams • Collect the necessary applications and forms for financial aide, fellowships, and grants

  18. Application Timeline (continued) Fall of Senior Year • Complete applications (either online or paper applications) • Arrange for official transcript to be mailed • Take required graduate admissions exams; ensure that the scores have been sent to the appropriate schools • Write your personal statement; have Career Services, your advisor or professor critique it • Ask for letters of recommendations to be written • As appropriate, complete financial aide paperwork; remember that this information needs to be sent in EARLY • Double check that all the application materials have been received by the school • Send thank you letters to people who wrote your recommendation letter

  19. Application Timeline (continued) Spring of Senior Year • Develop a “Plan B” in case you are not admitted to your program (s) • Visit universities that accept you • If you plan to live in university housing, apply for space • Send a deposit to the university of choice • Notify other universities that have accepted you of your decision to attend another institution

  20. Standardized Tests Take standardized tests seriously—the admissions committee does. The best time to take the exams are in the summer before your senior year or early fall.

  21. Standardized Tests (continued) Most academic programs require the Graduate Records Exam (GRE). This is a computerized test that has three sections: • Verbal • Quantitative • Analytical Your program may also require the GRE subject test—Check With individual programs to see if it is required. The subject test is not computerized. For more information on the GRE visit

  22. Standardized Tests (continued) Other Standardized Tests: • Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT); • Law School Admission Test (LSAT): • Miller Analogies Test (MAT): • Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): • Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT): • Dental Admission Test (DAT): Some dental program will accept MCAT scores and some graduate programs will accept MAT in place of the GRE. The application materials may not list this as an options but you can call and ask.

  23. Writing the Personal Statement Most programs require a personal statement as part of the application. Although there is no set formula, the following tips may help • Research you programs—tailor your statement to each school. Show that you are a “good fit” • Prepare an outline. • Write a rough draft using your outline. Your answers should reflect the points requested by each program

  24. Writing the Personal Statement(continued) • Avoid unnecessary duplication—Information included in other parts of your application (i.e. resume, transcript, application form) should not be repeated here • Ask Career Services, your advisor or professor to critique your statement • Re-Write. Re-Write. Re-Write. The statement should be perfect. • Avoid lengthy personal or philosophical discussions

  25. Writing the Personal Statement(continued) Introduction: Begin with a distinctive opening to gain the reader’s attention. Faculty are reviewing hundreds of applications, make sure yours stand out. Connect your experiences and career objective to the program. Supporting Paragraphs: Address the specific questions from the application. Use your outline to convince the committee of your qualifications and compatibility with the program. Conclusion: Link all your qualifications presented in earlier paragraphs. Show how you will “fit” with the program and how the program will direct you in your long term goals. Check out “Graduate Admission Essays” by Donald Asher in the Career Services library

  26. Letters of Recommendations Typically programs ask for 3 letters of recommendations. Most of these letters will be from professors in the department where you receive your degree. Recommendations can also be valuable from supervisors of research projects, full/part time jobs, or volunteer positions. Choose people who can write thoughtful, detailed letters about your accomplishments and abilities.

  27. Letters of Recommendations(continued) Provide people who will be completing recommendations the following information: • Copy of your resume • Copy of your personal statement • Self addressed self envelope for each program • Deadline date for each application • Request for Letters of Reference form (Can be found at Career Services) Send a thank you letter to each individual who wrote a recommendation for you.

  28. Questions? If you need any assistance in the graduate school process don’t hesitate to contact Career Services. Office Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:00am-4:30pm Phone: 507-537-6221