Graduate School Information
Compiled by Angela Torres, B.A.
& Edwina Reece, B.S
Things to Consider When Choosing a Graduate School
- Size of the program and the university
- Quality of the program
- Fit of the program to your interests
- Facilities at the university: library, computer labs, etc.
- Breadth and depth of class offerings
- Projected cost of attendance, living expenses, etc.
- Available funding: scholarships, assistantships, etc.
- Opportunities available for practicum, research, etc.
- Research of faculty members
- Reputation of the faculty
- Selection criteria of the program
- Entrance requirements
- Success rate of the graduates: employment, publications, time to degree completion
- Accreditation by the relevant organizations (e.g., state, professional organizations)
Financial Aid Option
- Graduate Assistantships
- Teaching Assistant
- Research Assistant
- Paid Practicum Site
- Fellowships (internal or external)
- Tuition Waivers
Letters of Recommendation
- Letters of recommendation are very important. They can help you or hurt you. They tell university admission boards about your accomplishments and positive qualities that may not be revealed in objective grades and test scores.
- You should be trying to do research with professors well before your senior year. A letter from someone who knows you well is a million times better than a neutral or generic letter.
- Letters of recommendation offer a “big picture” to admissions committees about your skills and how well you will fit in their program.
- Graduate admission committees often seek answers to:
- Do you have any experience in research, teaching, and/or applied work?
- Do you contribute to class discussions?
- Do you have the interpersonal skills that allow you to work well with others including your peers, faculty, and other students?
- Do you have leadership skills?
- Are you involved in extracurricular activities?
- Most schools ask for three letters of recommendation
- Give your professors plenty of time to write the letters and provide them with the materials in an organized fashion. Enclose a checklist for them to keep track of letters as well as due dates (make due dates a week earlier just in case). Make sure all envelopes are pre-addressed and stamped. Ask them to sign the seal of the envelope.
- Provide the professor with useful information about you, including:
- Overall GPA
- Major and Minor GPA
- List of courses that are relevant to your area of graduate study and grades earned
- Titles and abstracts of any research papers you have written
- Research projects that you are involved in currently and those from the past
- Honor societies and organizations that you joined
- Volunteer Work
- Internships and work experience
- Professional goals
- Why you want to study this subject
Writing your personal Statement
Overview: Your personal statement is your introduction to a university admissions committee. The aim of your statement is to communicate that you are intelligent, literate, and have interests and abilities in common with the program in which you are interested. In your personal statement, the admissions committee wants to know what your interests in that field are and how you came to have them, what your goals and ambitions in their field are, and how their program can help you achieve those goals. Try to focus on educational and occupational experiences rather than personal experiences, when possible. When discussing your goals, try to be specific, but flexible, showing that you're open to learning new things. There are several other points that are important when writing a personal statement.
Your writing should be clear. The last thing you want is for your personal statement to be an aggravation to read. Here are some aspects of clear writing:
Clear, direct phrasing (word choice)
It is rather important that the selection of words chosen by any given individual reflect a cognizance of the English language as demonstrated by the careful selection of words designed to evoke the most appropriate emotional and cognitive response in a clear, concise manner.
Huh? Oh, sorry. Let's rephrase that: Use phrases that simply and directly convey your meaning. Don't use language to try to sound sophisticated. You should be clear, concise and intelligent, not verbose, flowery, or pompous.
Avoid overly common phrases and nonspecific information. For example: “My above qualifications and my placement in the top tenth of my class demonstrate that I have the leadership, organization, and academic ability to succeed well at your school.”
This generic statement says nothing specific about you as an individual. When you're writing, think about whether it's likely that 100 other people said the same thing you did. The personal statement is your chance to show how unique you are.
- Organization is the ‘macro' level of clear writing. Not only should each sentence be clear, but the entire text should flow together in a logical order.
- Put the most important sentences at the beginning and end of the paragraph. When people skim passages, they look at the first and then the last sentence. Make a good first and last impression with substantive statements. Don't begin or end on fluff.
- Put the most important paragraph first. Don't “save the best for last”; you don't know how long the attention span of your reader will be.
- Have an outline. There should be a reason that paragraph 1 comes first and paragraph 2 follows. Have a clear outline of the main points and how those main points fit together. Use that outline to check whether the most important point is first, whether all points are equally important, and which points you might sacrifice in the interest of space.
- Use transitions between paragraphs. Have meaningful transitions based on your organization (e.g., time-based, academic then applied work). Don't rely on phrases such as “In addition” to carry the reader to the next paragraph.
Don't be sloppy. Use a spell check, but also proofread to catch errors that spell check may miss (e.g., affect vs. effect, its vs. it's). You don't want your writing to suggest to the committee that you're lazy or don't care enough to fix typos, or worse, that you're in college and you still don't know how to spell.
Type your personal statement. Make your statement fit neatly within the allotted space (usually 1-2 pages) and use a font size that is easily read. You want the reader to be as comfortable as possible when reading your personal statement. Standard margins are 1” and standard font size is 12. Attractive legible fonts include Palatino and Times. Experiment with different fonts to see which one best serves your space requirements. Also, check out the APA Manual's typeface suggestions (p. 237-239, 4 th ed.). As a general rule of thumb, the more a font looks like a typewriter, the better. Avoid unusual fonts.
You need substantive content and if you can be creative, that's even better. The needs will vary according to your area of interest. Pay attention to the requirements of the department to which you are applying. Here are some areas you might include:
- Work done with or that displays knowledge of top people in the field—summarize key points of your actual experience
- Recognition of and interest in the work of individuals in the department to which you are applying
- Related work experience
- Personal reasons for your interest in the area: for example, difficulties overcome, great extracurricular achievements, etc.
These items are pretty standard, so don't limit yourself to this list. Use your imagination!
Stay well within length requirements. If you find yourself running over, evaluate which aspects of your personal statement are essential and which may be nice but not special. Here are some things that affect length:
- Have you stated information concisely? Is anything wordy or repetitious?
- Does each paragraph convey a specific meaningful point?
- Can you combine paragraphs that convey the same main point?
- Are you crowding the page by using small margins and too-small font?
When you are satisfied with your draft, get someone else to read it (maybe the Writing Center or a faculty member), or leave enough time to set it aside and come back to it later. You'll be amazed at how many things sounded great when you wrote them that later seem unnecessary. Plan to write several drafts before you're satisfied; you'll be pleased at how much better your final draft is compared to the first one.
Graduate Entrance Exams
Most graduate admissions committees require the GRE, but there are several other entrance exams that may be required instead (GMAT, MAT, TOEFL). These scores are typically used to measure the student's intellectual ability as well as the likelihood of that student's success in graduate school. The point is… you want to do that best that you can on the exam. It is best to take one of the earliest possible exams in case you need to take it again (due to illness or lack of preparation) to improve your scores. You will want all of the scores to be reported to the universities by the application deadlines. Information (including test-taking tips) for the GRE is available at www.gre.org.
Sources and Helpful Websites: