Applying for Grad School
Thinking about applying for graduate school? Whatever your interests are, the decision to go to graduate school is a very serious one, so be sure to think long and hard before committing yourself to a program. Nationally, at least half of all students who begin graduate degree programs fail to finish. On the other hand, a graduate degree may open up many more career options and increase your salary level quite significantly.
If you have decided that graduate school is the right choice for you, there are a number of great resources to help you prepare, polish your resume and tell you what to expect during the interview. On the UC Davis campus, the Pre-Graduate Advising Center, the Internship and Career Center (ICC) and the Undergraduate Research Center are all wonderful places to start. Our campus also has numerous advising departments for specific fields of graduate study, such as the health professions and business.
Most grad schools require some sort of graduate entrance examination (GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc.), which will likely take some serious preparation and maybe a few separate attempts on your part. Thus, it is very helpful to look into schools you are interested in very early on and begin preparing yourself for those tests. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to retake the test in case you are not happy with your first score. You can purchase materials to help you study and even take classes to improve your scores. Be sure to keep an eye out for the many free practice tests and classes offered on campus!
While each school is unique, most graduate school applications require transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores and a personal statement. The personal statement is most often the key to your invitation for an interview and is thus worth revising over and over again. Depending on the prompt, the questions may be rather vague or difficult to answer, so it is not a bad idea to look for sample essays written by students admitted to your target program. Be sure to keep your personal statement realistic and true to yourself because it is often the source of many interview questions.
Letters of recommendation are also a major part of the process of applying to graduate school and you should start thinking about these very early on. When considering who to approach for letters of recommendation, keep in mind that the person writing your letters will need to explain why you are an incredible candidate for the graduate program to which you are applying. In most cases, it is very helpful if he or she can cite a significant relationship or experience with you to exemplify your stellar qualities. Approach everyone that you are thinking about asking early so that they will not feel pressed to simply get out any old letter and so that you will have time to find other options should someone say “no.”
Get started early and good luck on that application!