Applying to Graduate and Professional Schools
If you are thinking about attending graduate or professional school, it is essential to explore your options carefully. The decision to go to graduate or professional school requires early planning, including knowing deadlines for admission tests and submission of applications and transcripts.
The highest degree that can be earned in graduate school is the Doctorate (e.g., PhD, EdD, PsyD). Obtaining a Doctoral degree usually requires the pursuit of original research. Professional school emphasizes the clinical application of knowledge and skills (e.g., JD for law school, MD for medical school). Master's degree programs (e.g., MA, MS, MEd) are offered in a wide variety of fields and can be either academic/research focused or professional/practitioner training focused. It may not be necessary to obtain a Master's degree before entering a PhD program.
Before making the decision to attend graduate school, ask yourself the following questions:
Attending graduate school can be a tremendous benefit when:
Attending graduate school may be a mistake if the purpose is to:
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 need to give yourself enough time to study and complete admission tests to ensure test scores arrive before the application deadline. You will also need to 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 the program application materials.
Many students begin researching graduate programs in their junior year or earlier in order to complete applications during the summer or 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.
Application deadlines for professional programs are typically earlier than graduate school application deadlines. 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:
Suggestions for researching programs:
Criteria for evaluating programs:
The application may include some or all of the following:
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 selected.
When applying to a graduate program, it is likely you will be required to complete two separate applications, one for the graduate program AND one for the graduate school.
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.
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 may be required for professional school.
Check 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: