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Graduate School

Graduate education involves a more narrowly focused program of study than undergraduate work. There are a wide variety of programs. You may earn a degree that is either academic or professional.

  • Academic degrees (M.A., M.S., Ph.D.) involve acquiring and communicating new knowledge through original research, and are awarded in almost all disciplines (e.g. arts and humanities, languages, natural sciences, and the social sciences).
  • Professional degrees emphasize the practical application of knowledge and skills, and may be earned in areas such as Law (J.D.), business (M.B.A.), medicine (M.D. or D.O.), and education (M.Ed.). Other fields include the fine arts (M.F.A.), library science (M.L.S.) and social work (M.S.W.).

Ask for help – at any stage, whether you are thinking about grad school or in the application phase, Career Development is here to help! Call (507-933-7575), use Handshake, or stop in to schedule an appointment or drop in during the academic year to meet with a Peer Career Advisor.

Deciding to pursue a graduate degree requires self-exploration in relation to career goals. Consider the costs of graduate school, and examine the possible advantages that a higher degree might offer, like more job options and a higher salary. Questions to ask yourself to help explore if graduate school is right for you:

  • What are my short-term and long-term career goals?
  • Is graduate study necessary for me to achieve these goals?
  • Am I able to commit the time and financial resources to pursue a graduate degree?
  • Do I have the emotional support to pursue a graduate degree?

Consult faculty members, alumni, graduate students in your planned program of study, and professionals working in your intended career field to get their input about the advantages and disadvantages for graduate study and any suggestions about timing related to your goals.

When you attend graduate school depends on your field of interest and your circumstances.  For example, MBA programs may require previous work experience; while for some Masters and PhD programs, it is often expected that you will transition directly from undergraduate to graduate school. 

When choosing a graduate program, consider both the program and the institution. Speak with faculty, alumni, graduate admissions representatives, and current students about the specific programs and degrees you are exploring. Factors to consider:

  • Program accreditation
  • Length of the program and course selection
  • Clinical experiences and/or practical applications of studies
  • Philosophical, theoretical, and professional approach of the faculty members and the department
  • Current research, publications, and professional involvement of the faculty
  • Specialties and interests of the faculty
  • Course requirements and/or entrance exams for admission
  • Availability of support services and campus culture
  • Financial aid opportunities, fellowships, graduate assistantships or internships
  • Cost and residency requirements
  • Size and geographic location
  • Availability of housing

More resources for searching for programs are listed below in the Career Resources and Online Tools sections below. Here is a spreadsheet of a list of factors to consider that should help you keep your search organized. The link will prompt you to make a copy of the spreadsheet to your google drive that is only viewable and editable by you.

It is important to submit your complete application by the deadline. Oftentimes, late or incomplete applications are not given the same consideration or considered at all due to the competitive nature of graduate and professional schools. Some programs even give preference of financial resources to those who apply early. 

Here’s an example timeline of how you could approach your graduate school search and application process.

Junior Year

  • Conduct a self assessment to determine values, interests, skills, and goals.
  • Research areas of interest, institutions, and programs.
  • Talk with faculty, alumni, and professionals in your field about possible programs.
  • Determine testing requirements for the program(s) you’re considering applying to and plan for taking tests.
  • Take required graduate admissions tests
  • Contact the graduate school admission department for each school you are considering.
    • Review application and what materials are required or requested.
    • Review funding options, such as assistantships and those application processes.
    • For certain Ph.D. programs, you will need to identify the professor within the program who you would want to study with. Contact the professor before applying to be sure they are accepting students that year.

Fall – Senior Year

  • Ask faculty or supervisors to write letters of recommendation.
  • Take required graduate admissions tests if you have not done so already.
  • Check on application deadlines and rolling admission policies.
  • Prepare a personal statement of interests and goals.
  • Complete a student résumé or curriculum vita.
  • Send application materials, which may include the following, to the graduate program(s): application, official transcript, deposit, test scores (GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MAT, MCAT, etc.), and letters of recommendation.
  • Visit schools of interest, if possible.
  • For programs with December deadlines, check with all institutions to whom you have submitted an application to make sure your file is complete.

Spring – Senior Year

  • Complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • For programs with January to February deadlines, check with all institutions to whom you have submitted an application to make sure your file is complete.
  • You should be notified about admittance and/or assistantships sometime between mid-March and mid-April.
  • Visit institutions that accept you.
  • After receiving word of acceptance and making your decision, send a letter of confirmation to the institution of your choice. Notify other colleges and universities of your decision so they may admit students on their waiting list.
  • Send thank-you notes to people who wrote your recommendation letters, informing them of your success.

Admission into graduate or professional school is competitive. It is important to have a quality application, with a strong academic background combined with experiences to enhance your application. Consider gaining experiences such as summer internships or fellowships, or undergraduate research opportunities. 

The application process for graduate and professional schools requires submission of a variety of items to showcase your ability and experience. Required items may include:

Each school will have different requirements for application, be sure to understand both the program and graduate or professional school application requirements.

Graduate and professional schools typically require that you take a standardized exam as part of your application. The test or exam that is needed will vary based on the program you are pursuing. It is important to know which tests are required for your programs of interest and to prepare for those exams and graduate or professional school application requirements.

Standardized Tests

Standardized testing requirements are typically noted on the program’s website.

Test Preparation

Taking standardized tests for graduate and professional schools requires preparation and we recommend you take practice tests. Many applicants choose to take standardized tests while still in “academic mode” and may take an exam more than once. Please check test sites and program sites to learn about testing dates, how long your scores would be valid, and about testing accommodations.


Personal Statements are an important part of a graduate and professional school application. A personal statement is your opportunity to bring your individual voice and personality to your application, and its purpose is to convince the reader that you are an ideal candidate to enter the program. You need to show evidence that you have the research skills, mindset, and scholarly interest to succeed. Keep in mind the following options for your statement:

  • A well-written statement takes time to craft. Expect to write several drafts of your personal statement and be sure to proofread.
  • Follow any directions outlined by the program and/or the graduate or professional school and answer any required questions.  
  • To start, try brainstorming 8-10 reasons why you would like to pursue this degree. 

Having the financial resources to attend graduate or professional school is important. There are many ways to receive funding to assist with the costs of attending. Funding options can include student loans, assistantships (paid, part-time internships), grants, fellowships or scholarships. 

Remember to inquire about availability of graduate and/or teaching assistantships as well as internships or fellowships offered by the programs to which you are applying. Other options to look in to include school application or graduate exam fee waivers. School-specific funding opportunities may involve teaching, research, or administrative work. Be sure to ask about the application process and deadlines.

More funding resources are linked below in the Career Resources and Online Tools sections below.


Career Resources

A Handbook for Students Applying for Scholarships and Graduate Study

For students, personal statements and application essays are among the …

Online Tools

Contact & Location


Johnson Student Union 209
800 West College Avenue
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