Graduate School

Important things to consider when looking into graduate school

Examine your reasons for going to graduate or professional school

  • Is it to escape finding a job?
  • Is it to explore further an area of interest?
  • Is it to bolster your credentials?
  • Is it because friends and family are pushing you to go?
  • Do you have emotional and financial commitments?


A Fairfield student stays focused on her future by doing research in the library.‌Select an academic focus

  • What could you study, read, write, and discuss that would keep you interested for 2-5+ years?
  • Have you explored the field through journals and talking to people in the field?
  • Have you studied the course outlines of programs of interest?
  • Have you looked over the textbooks you will be using in the program?
  • Have you talked to current students in the program?


Determine what elements of the school/department are important to you, including:

  • Prestige/reputation of university
  • Prestige/reputation of department
  • Research vs. teaching university
  • Admission standards, including number of applicants applying and accepted
  • Accreditation of program
  • Faculty accessibility, research specialties, and prominence
  • Method of study, such as focus on research, practice, and/or theory
  • Ability to tailor program to fit your interests
  • Academic support, including library collection
  • Campus/community Involvement, including opportunities to be connected
  • Location of university
  • Cost
  • Availability of financing, including fellowships, teaching and research assistantships
  • Placement opportunities after graduation


Develop a list of potential schools by researching graduate and professional school directories, websites, and possibly going to campus visits or graduate school fairs


Magazine and book resources found in libraries:

  • US News and World Report
  • Barron's Guide to Graduate Business Schools
  • Gourman Report: A Rating of Graduate and Professional Programs
  • Graduate School Rankings and Information
  • Beyond the Ivy Wall by Greene by Howard and Robert Minton
  • Guide to American Graduate Schools by Doughty, Harold R.
  • Real Life Guide to Graduate & Professional School: How to Choose, Apply for, and Finance Your Advanced Degree! By Cindy Rold


Research the potential schools, using the following:

  • Obtain catalogs directly from academic departments
  • University websites
  • Talk to professors
  • Talk to Career Counselors


Develop three lists of your targeted schools

  • Safe: Colleges which have requirements you exceed
  • Within reach: colleges which have requirements you meet
  • More competitive: Colleges which have requirements a bit beyond your credentials


Prepare appropriate materials, including:

  • Letters of recommendation/credentials file
  • Graduate school essay
  • Official transcripts
  • Application and fees
  • A report of any standardized test scores
  • Resume


Request, complete, and return applications

  • Allow plenty of time
  • Type neatly and correctly


Plan and study for needed exams

  • Determine the exam(s) needed for entrance, including final dates of universities
  • Decide if you will take a prep course, such as Princeton Review or Stanley Kaplan or prep tests and computer software


Await decisions on your application. In the meantime, think about...

  • Doing a video-practice interview at Career Services in case the institutions require an interview
  • Doing some advance reading in the field, about the department, and the school location


Decide on the school most appropriate to your needs

  • Weigh advantages/disadvantages based on your needs
  • Impressions mean a lot


Once in Graduate School, here are some suggestions:

  • Get involved in professional organizations and develop leadership skills
  • Develop good time management skills
  • Think like a professional vs. a student
  • Give presentations on areas of interest at professional conferences
  • Write or co-write professional journal articles
  • Attend association conferences and network with others in the field


Timetable for applying

Write a draft statement of purpose
Start browsing through guides to graduate programs

Meet with faculty members to discuss statement and possible programs
Ask for letters of recommendation
Sign up for required standardized tests

Take standardized tests
Request application materials from programs

Order transcripts
Complete application forms
Give recommenders all the information needed to write recommendations

Mail applications. Get the applications in early, if possible.

Contact programs about visiting and make sure your file is complete.
Make the trip if possible

File a copy of your federal income tax return if you are applying for need based financial programs


Application Checklist:

__ Statement of purpose
__ Letters of recommendation
__ Transcripts
__ Standardized Tests
__ Applications for admission
__ Applications for financial aid
__ Applications for fellowships
__ Income Tax Return (if necessary, for Financial Aid)
__ Other information as requested

Grad School Resources

Professional Organizations

Publications & Employment

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