Are you considering graduate school? Here are some helpful tips and strategies to support you on your academic journey. Follow the tabs below to explore specific topics on pursuing graduate education.
The first step in considering graduate school is to begin thinking about why you want to go. Below, you will see some questions to help you figure out your motivation for graduate school. Ask yourself:
- What factors are motivating me to go to graduate school?
- What topics am I passionate to learn more about?
- What kind of graduate programs do I want to pursue?
- What do I want to do after I finish my graduate degree?
Graduate education delivers specialized knowledge in a concentrated area. Before pursuing graduate school, it is valuable to think about which type of program is right for you. Consider the following options:
- Master’s degrees offer specialized training in a field of study that includes both applied and theoretical topics. Some programs provide preparation for a specific profession.
- Specialist degrees are usually completed in addition to a master’s program and often require additional training or internship experience. This type of degree prepares you for professional certification or licensing.
- Doctoral degrees usually require original research for an academic program or practical application of knowledge and skills in a professional program.
For more information on professional school (i.e. law school, medical school, and business school), please go to the Career Center’s Professional School page.
Having a general understanding of when you wish to attend graduate school will aid you in the application process. Do you envision beginning graduate study immediately after your undergraduate degree? Would you prefer to work, travel, or volunteer after college? These are important questions to consider. Certain graduate programs actually prefer candidates who have obtained some formative experience before applying to graduate school.
After thinking about why you want to go to graduate school, it’s time to begin researching programs that match. Below, you will see some helpful resources for researching graduate school programs:
- US News World Report - Grad School Rankings
- Graduate School – Princeton Review
Graduate school is also a financial commitment. Students considering graduate school should think about how they might fund their education. Here are some strategies to explore:
- Research the cost of each program.
- Inquire about scholarships, loans, assistantships, and financial aid options from each school.
- Consider applying for PhD programs. These programs are typically fully funded.
- If you are working, see if your current employer is willing to offer tuition assistance. Colleges and universities tend to offer this support to their employees.
Below, you will also see some Temple resources that offer guidance on paying for graduate school:
- Office of Scholar Development and Fellowship Advising – External Opportunities
- Graduate School – Funding Opportunities
Graduate school programs, like employers, want to see that you have been developing relevant experience in preparation for an advanced degree. You will want to demonstrate any possible research experience, volunteerism, or work experience. Below, you will find some resources at Temple University to help you begin cultivating experience:
- Undergraduate Research Experience
- Volunteer Experience
- Student Clubs and Organizations
- Handshake – Internships and Job Opportunities
When you have clarified your motivations, researched graduate programs, and gained relevant experience, then it is time to begin the application process. Below, you will see a review of the core application materials needed to apply to graduate school.
Graduate schools generally require you to write a personal statement. In a personal statement, you should communicate to the graduate school program your interest in the field of study, skills and experiences that have prepared you for graduate school, why you chose their specific program, and what career goals you hope to attain after the degree.
Here are some things to remember in writing your personal statement:
- Follow any instructions the school gives you about writing the personal statement.
- Keep it brief: 1 to 2 pages or specified word limit.
- Have your document reviewed by others: Career Center, Writing Center, Faculty.
- Personal Statement Writing Workshop – Webinar Recording
Graduate schools may also require additional short essays that help admissions boards assess whether to admit students into their program. Below are some tips when writing these essays:
- Follow the essay prompt and all instructions.
- Focus on work related to the field of interest and not personal life.
- Provide examples of your experience that show you would be a good student, researcher, and/or teacher (research and teaching experiences).
- Expound on future career goals and research interests.
Letters of Recommendation
Graduate schools may ask for several academic and/or professional references to advocate for your candidacy. Below are some tips:
- Choose teachers and supervisors who know and can speak to your best skills and strengths.
- Notify teachers and supervisors as early as possible that you are seeking a letter of recommendation.
- Allow teachers and supervisors to see your personal statement, resume, and information about the program to which you are applying, as this will enable them to best tailor recommendation to the expectations of the program.
Graduate Admissions Tests
Most graduate and professional schools require some type of graduate admission test. It is important to research the graduate school’s requirements to see if the school requires a graduate admission test, and if so, what type of test. Below are some of the graduate admissions tests required for graduate and professional schools:
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
- Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)
- Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
- Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
The Office of Non-Credit and Continuing Education at Temple University offers support on test prep for the GRE, GMA, and LSAT. For more information, go to: Test Prep
Submitting Official Transcripts
Graduate schools will request your undergraduate transcripts. Plan ahead to submit your transcripts because sending these documents takes time.
See the Office of the Registrar – Transcript Services for submitting transcripts from Temple University.
Graduate schools will request your resume. This document shows the graduate committee the experiences you have acquired that make you a good fit for the program. Here are some tips for your graduate school resume:
- Be sure to cite relevant coursework, awards, honors, research, teaching opportunities, shadowing opportunities, clinical work, and other work experiences.
- Also, highlight any other academic projects, coursework, or skills that are related to the program.
- Have the resume reviewed by a professor, friends, family, and the Career Center.
- See Career Center sample resumes
Once a graduate school has received your application materials, they may request a phone, virtual, or in-person interview. Here are some ways to prepare for your interview:
- Research the graduate school - Learn about the specific program and be able to ask informed questions about the graduate school.
- Review your resume and personal statement - Consider experiences, research, and career goals that you would want to highlight in the interview. Many times, interviewers will ask questions about your past experiences as they relate to the graduate program and your career goals.
- Seek knowledge about your field - Interviewers may ask questions about the given field to test your current knowledge of the subject matter. Speak to current professors about relevant resources and conduct personal research about matters pertaining to your area of interest.
- More information on interviewing (Career Center Interviewing Handout)
Once you receive acceptance letters from the various schools you applied to, you can begin to weigh offers. Here are several things to consider:
- What are the cost differentials between programs? Consider what funding and financial aid has been made/is available to you and what your ability to pay any remaining balance will be.
- How do the program locations factor into your decision? Consider the relocation costs and time needs associated with moving, finding new housing, and acclimating to a new place - depending on regional proximity.
- What are the outcomes of each program? Based on your career goals, compare the career prospects of alumni from the various programs where you have been accepted: Where are they working? What are they earning?
Applying to graduate school can be a time-consuming and tedious process. There are several resources at Temple University that can assist you. Consult these resources as you apply to graduate programs:
Type of Support
Grad School Exploration
Personal Statement Writing
Test Prep Services
Networking with Alumni