Attending graduate school, seeking a fellowship, or taking a gap year may be the right next step after you complete your undergraduate studies. This information will help you explore these options.
Making the graduate school decision requires the same kind of process that applies to other career decisions: determine your interests and skills, clarify your goals and make a plan to achieve them.
Graduate school can be rewarding and enriching, but it is not for everyone. Sometimes taking a break from your studies before applying to graduate education can be a positive and necessary step. Consider alternatives: a gap year, fellowship or work experience immediately upon graduation can be a bridge between undergraduate and graduate school.
Graduate school options
Graduate programs can be divided into professional programs like law or business (MBA); master’s programs; and Ph.D. programs. Choosing the “right” graduate program can be overwhelming. Follow the timeline below and seek help from faculty as needed. The Center can help you with all aspects of the graduate school application process. Contact us.
- Research graduate schools and programs: Target your search by academic specialization and geographic preference. Talk to faculty, professionals or other advisors who have knowledge of your area of interest for insight into what might be helpful for you.
- Request Information and determine application deadlines: Most application deadlines are between December and March. However there are many exceptions.
- Explore financial aid resources.
- Register for admission exam: In most cases an exam such as the GRE, GMAT or LSAT will be required. Research graduate school programs to determine what if any exams will be required. If exams are required, make sure you study. All of your scores will be counted and viewed by graduate schools. Consider registering for a test preparation course.
- Prepare for success: Some experiences may give your application an edge.Consider engaging in research, attending conferences, networking with faculty, gaining relevant internship experience or volunteering and shadowing professionals.
- Select graduate schools: Consider the quality/ranking of the program, reputation of faculty, academic specialization areas, opportunities for research, facilities, where graduates find employment, geographic location, financial cost, scholarship opportunities and culture/fit. Arrange a campus visit, if possible.
- Request official transcripts.
- Contact writers for your letters of recommendation.
- Write your statement of purpose: Start writing early and plan for several drafts. Have at least three people read it before you apply: career counselor, faculty member, the Writing Center, excellent proofreader.
- Submit applications and verify that all materials have been received.
- Apply early for assistantships, fellowships and financial aid as needed.
- Congratulations! Accept admission and decline, where necessary. Share the good news with those who helped you get in!
A fellowship is a monetary reward offered by an institution, foundation or other organization to support academic work, research or specialized training in areas of interest to the granting organization. Fellowships are typically a short-term (one year) experience that can help you to gain experience, make contacts, prepare for graduate school and lead to entry opportunities. The application process is typically competitive. Apply early!
Taking a gap year (usually 12-24 months) after graduation offers time to get to know yourself better, explore potential careers and build new skills that can help your transition to graduate school or full-time employment. Gap year experiences include: traveling, teaching, volunteering and postgraduate service programs. These programs apply to all majors and may offer a stipend, housing and/or benefits (including tuition).