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Researching Programs & Schools
When should you begin researching programs?
Start early! Some applications may open as early as one to one and a half years before you want to attend. You will need to give yourself enough time to apply, study and complete admission tests and give your references time to write their recommendation letters.
Application deadlines for assistantships, scholarships and other financial aid may be different from the deadlines for program application materials.
- Attend preview or visit days at the schools you are considering. If there are no scheduled preview days, schedule your own visit. Set up appointments ahead of time to talk with faculty, current students and graduate or professional school coordinators and to tour the campus and facilities.
- Use graduate school search websites (e.g., petersons.com) or other websites such as the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) to search for schools and programs.
- Attend graduate and professional school fairs and information sessions.
- Talk with your faculty advisor and other faculty and staff.
- Seek out professionals currently working in your desired field and join professional organizations related to your field.
- Connect with current graduate students and follow career or departmental offices through social media.
- Join LinkedIn groups associated with the school and area of study.
- Determine what would make you a strong candidate. Do you need job shadowing, direct patient care or research experience?
Each person has their own criteria for evaluating programs. Some things to consider are:
- Quality of the program in your area of interest
- Degree(s) offered, length of program, program requirements
- Faculty and their areas of expertise, reputation and credentials
- Cost and financial aid available
- Location and surrounding community
- Career planning and job search assistance
- Culture of the program, school, community
- Facilities, equipment, labs, libraries and practicum/clinical opportunities
- Additional criteria important or necessary for you to succeed
The application may include some or all of the following:
- Official transcripts of all college level academic work
- Personal statement or statement of purpose
- Supplemental application questions
- Standardized test scores
- Letters of recommendation
- Resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
- Samples of your work
An interview Different schools and programs may evaluate and place greater importance on different parts of the application. Apply to several programs to increase your options and chances of being accepted.
Many students begin researching graduate programs in their junior year in order to complete applications during the fall of their senior year. Most graduate school application deadlines are between December and April for fall admission but some may be as early as November. Be sure to check individual school deadlines!
Application deadlines for assistantships, scholarships and other financial aid may be earlier than deadlines for the program application materials.
Graduate school admission tests
The GRE General Test is the most often required entrance test for graduate school. GRE Subject Tests may also be required by some programs.
Applications to professional schools may be due as early as one to one and a half years before you want to attend. You will also need to give yourself time to do shadowing and/or acquire clinical experience to make yourself a strong candidate for some programs. Many professional schools require the use of a centralized application service, often referred to as “CAS.” Check the CAS opening date and deadlines in your professional area of interest. CAS examples include:
- Dental school: ADEA AADSAS
- Law school: LSDAS
- Medical school: AMCAS
- Optometry school: OptomCAS
- Pharmacy school: PharmCAS
- Physical Therapy school: PTCAS
- Physicians Assistant school: CASPA
Professional school admission tests
The LSAT for law school, MCAT for medical school, GMAT for business school and PCAT for pharmacy school are examples of standardized tests that are typically required for professional school.
Check admission test requirements of each school to which you are applying and their deadlines so you can schedule your testing date accordingly.
When preparing for standardized tests:
- Begin early
- Set aside time each week to prepare
- Take advantage of free online preparation materials (e.g., Khan Academy, GRE.org)
- Explore private test preparation companies if interested
Next step: Applying to Graduate and Professional School