If you are interested in graduate school, you should carefully consider how it will help you attain your personal and career goals. Graduate degrees are often required for employment in some fields. For example:
- Careers in higher education
- Careers in psychology, social work, nursing, and secondary school teaching, which require professional licensing
- Careers with a laboratory-science component or fieldwork.
You may pursue a graduate degree as a way to change careers or seek advancement in your job. Or you may go to graduate school simply for the love of the subject matter and your wish to pursue it in greater depth.
There are many good reasons to go to graduate school, so make sure you have one. Some students go to graduate school for the wrong reasons-they have not chosen a career, or they think that a graduate degree (regardless of the field) means they will make more money when they graduate. Graduate school is not the place to figure out what you want to do with your life. It is too expensive and time consuming.
You should begin with an honest period of self-assessment where you clearly define the reasons why you want to go to graduate school and how it will help you in your career aspirations.
Graduate schools consider a number of factors in their admission decisions. Assess your credentials to see if you are a competitive candidate.
Your undergraduate GPA and your GRE or GMAT scores are the traditional criteria used. Schools are looking for students in the top third of their class with above average (and sometimes well above average) GRE scores. If you have a 2.0 GPA, then you do not have a good chance of getting into most graduate schools.
GPA in Your Major
Graduate work is specialized study in a single field, therefore your performance in your major may be more indicative of your ability to succeed in graduate school than your cumulative GPA. For example, a chemistry major might have a very high GPA in their major and a lower GPA outside of it, which is okay. Schools might also focus on your performance in your junior and senior years as more representative of your abilities.
Research experience is of critical importance in the sciences. Schools will consider your research experience as one way to evaluate your candidacy. The awarding of research assistantships may be based on the quality and extent of your undergraduate research.
GRE and GMAT
Whether you like it or not, your performance on standardized tests is critical to your chances of admission and to your chances of getting a scholarship. You should be as prepared as possible going into these exams because your competitors for a place in the entering class certainly will be.
Your senior thesis should be a showcase of your very best academic work, and it could reflect your ability to perform at the graduate level.
Letters of Recommendation
These should be from professors in your department who are familiar with your academic abilities.
Personal Statements/Statements of Purpose
Personal Statements provide an opportunity for you to communicate that you are a focused, dedicated student who has clearly thought through your decision to go to graduate school.
Include relevant work experience, internships, volunteer work, extracurricular activity, academic honors, and awards.
Schools are looking for something outstanding and distinctive-for evidence that you can perform high-level, scholarly work, whether that is in a lab or in the classroom
The difference in admission between graduate school and law school is that graduate school admission is often a far more personal process. Your application goes to the academic department to which you are applying, and the department accepts or rejects your application, not the admission office.
Applying to graduate school consists of multiple steps. To aid you in the process we have included below a list of items you should be considering as part of your research and application process.
- Seek suggestions/input from your advisor or a professor in your department
- Research schools
- Take the GRE or GMAT
- Get letters of recommendation
- Write a personal statement
- Complete applications
- Make inquiries about assistantships/fellowships or financial aid.
A good first step in your investigation of graduate schools is to talk with someone in your department who knows you and your work. Faculty in your department know a great deal about graduate work in their field and will have specific insights that the Office of Academic Advisement cannot provide for you. They might recommend schools for you to apply to, people to contact, ways to enhance your application, or they may suggest alternate routes to graduate school. They might also give you a realistic appraisal of your chances of admission.
There are many ways to acquire information about graduate school. One place to start is with the faculty in your department. In addition, you might use the reference library in the Office of Academic Advisement to begin your search.
You should also read reference books for your field. Some fields have specific reference books dedicated to graduate study, which outline what schools in a particular field are looking for. The Office of Academic Advisement houses an extensive library of books for graduate school planning.
You can find a great deal of information on the Web, including search engines for graduate schools, rankings of schools, financial aid information, and links to the home pages of programs. Home pages of schools can be helpful because they often highlight the specialty areas in which the school prides itself, such as, faculty strengths, internship programs, graduate job placement, and other pertinent information.
Graduate School Internet Resources
Peterson's College and Graduate School Planning
PhD Study in the USA – A Guide for 2023
Grad School Tips
Applying to and Considering Graduate School
- Beyond the Ivy Wall, Greene and Minton, 1989
- Game Plan for Getting into Graduate School, Peterson's, Marion Castellucci, 2000
- Graduate School: Winning Strategies for Getting in With or Without Excellent Grades, David Mumby, 1997
- Graduate School Admissions Adviser 2001 Edition, Kaplan, 2000
- How to Write a Winning Personal Statement, 3rd ed., Richard J. Stelzer, 1997
- Perfect Personal Statements, Peterson's, 2004
- The Real Guide to Grad School, What You Better Know Before You Choose Humanities & Social Sciences, Lingua Franca Books, 1997
- Surviving Graduate School Part Time, Von Pittman, 1997
- Complete Book of Medical Schools, The Princeton Review, 2004
- The Gourman Report: A Ranking of Graduate and Professional Programs in America and International Universities, 8th edition, NES, 1997
- Graduate Programs in the Biological Sciences, Book #3, Peterson's, 2004
- Graduate Programs in Business, Education, Health, Information Studies, Law and Social Work, Book #6, Peterson's, 2004
- Graduate Programs in Engineering & Applied Sciences, Book #5, Peterson's, 2004
- Graduate Programs & Professional Programs, Book #1, Peterson's, 2004
- Graduate Programs in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Book #2, Peterson's, 2004
- Graduate Programs: Humanities & Social Sciences, Princeton Review, 1997-98
- Graduate Programs in Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Agricultural Sciences, the Environment & Natural Resources, Book #4, 2004
- Graduate Schools in the U.S., Peterson's, 2006 (2005)
- Guide for Selecting and Applying to Master of Social Work Programs, Jesus Reyes, 1996-97
- Index of Majors and Graduate Degrees, 21st ed., The College Board, 1999
- Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology, Norcross, Sayette & Mayne, 2000-2001
- Requirements for Certification, 65th ed., Elizabeth A. Kaye, 2000-2001
- U.S. News & World Report, America's Best Graduate Schools, 2008 (2004, 2003, 2002)
- The Best Business Schools, 6th ed., Business Week, 1999
- Business School Admissions Adviser 2000 Edition, Kaplan 1999
- Complete Book of Business Schools, The Princeton Review, 2004
- MBA Programs - U.S., Canadian and International Business Schools, Peterson's, 2000
- MBA Programs - The Leading Guide to MBA Programs in the U.S., Peterson's, 2003
- How to Get Into the Top MBA Programs, Richard Montauk, 2002
- Cracking the GRE, The Princeton Review, 2001
- Cracking the GRE, The Princeton Review, 2003
- Cracking the GRE, The Princeton Review, 2005
- Cracking the GRE, Biology, The Princeton Review, 2002 (1997)
- Cracking the GRE Literature in English, The Princeton Review, 1997
- Cracking the GRE, Psychology, The Princeton Review, 2002
- Cracking the MAT, The Princeton Review, (3rd ed), 2002
- Crash Course for the GRE, Karen Lurie, 1999
- How to Prepare for the GRE, 14th ed., Green and Wolf, Barron's 2000
- GRE Exam, Kaplan, 2003
- GRE Higher Score Guaranteed 1999-2000 Edition, Kaplan, 1999
- GRE & GMAT Exams Math Workbook, Third Edition, Kaplan Publishing, 2002
- GRE/GMAT Math Review, Thomson-Peterson's, 2005
- Logic and Reading Review for the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, Thomson-Peterson's, 2002
- The Best Preparation for the MAT (5th ed.), Research and Education Association, 2006
- Word Smart-Building an Educated Vocabulary, The Princeton Review, 1995
- Writing Skills for the GRE/GMAT Tests, Thomson-Peterson's, 2002
GMAT Test Preparation
- Cracking the GMAT, The Princeton Review, 2001
- Cracking the GMAT, The Princeton Review, 2003
- Kaplan, GMAT, (book and CD), 2000-2001
- Complete Guide to Financial Aid, Peterson's, 2002
- Directory of Financial Aid for Women, Gail Ann Schlachter, Reference Service
- The Federal Educational and Scholarship Funding Guide, 2nd ed., Grayco Publishing, 1990
- Financing Graduate School, Patricia McWade, Peterson's, 1996
- Financial Aid for Study and Training Abroad 1999-2001, Reference Service Press, 1999
- The Graduate Student's Complete Scholarship Book, Student Services, L.L.C., 1998
- How to Pay for Your Degree in Education & Related Fields 2004-2006, Reference Service Press, 2004
- Money for Graduate Students in the Biological & Health Sciences, Reference Service Press, 2001-03
- Money for Graduate Students in the Humanities, Reference Service Press, 2001-03
- Money for Graduate Students in the Physical & Earth Sciences, Reference Service Press, 2001-03
- Money for Graduate Students in the Social Sciences, Reference Service Press, 2001-03
- Paying for Graduate School Without Going Broke, The Princeton Review, 2004
Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
If you are interested in applying to graduate school in the arts, sciences, and social sciences you are often required to take the GRE General Test and sometimes a GRE Subject Test. The GRE General Test measures verbal, quantitative, and analytical skills. The subject tests are designed to measure knowledge and understanding of subject matter basic to graduate study in specific fields.
The GRE General Test is a computer based test and currently administered year-round at computer-based test centers in the U.S. currently offered on computer at locations throughout the United States. The last paper and pencil based administration of the General Test was held in 1999.
Subject Tests gauge undergraduate achievement in eight specific fields of study and are only offered as paper-based tests.
The GRE Information and Registration Bulletin is available in the Office of Academic Advisement or through the GRE Web site. Subject Tests include: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Literature in English, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology.
Graduate Management Admissions Test(GMAT)
If you are interested in applying to business schools and MBA Programs, you must take the GMAT. The GMAT measures general verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills. It does not test people on specific knowledge of business or economics.
The GMAT is only offered on computer and it can be taken year round at locations throughout the United States. Information and applications are available in the Office of Academic Advisement. Test takers may also register online.
Miller Analogies Test (MAT)
A test of analytical ability that requires the solution of problems stated as analogies. The MAT is intended to measure a student's ability to recognize relationships between ideas, fluency in the English language, and general knowledge of the humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, and social sciences.
Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
If you are interested in applying to law school, you must take the LSAT. The test consists of five, 35-minute sections, including sections on reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. The test also includes a 30 minute writing sample.
The LSAT is offered four times throughout the year, usually in early February, June, September/October, and December.
Information and applications are available in the Office of Academic Advisement. Test takers may also register online.
Health Professions Advising and Preparation
Saint Anselm College offers courses that prepare you for graduate study in medicine (allopathic, osteopathic, and podiatric), dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant and any other allied health profession.
Your choice of major is independent of your career goals. Many students choose to major in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, psychology or natural science. You are encouraged to choose a major in which you can excel.
When planning your schedules you are advised to include the following courses:
- BI 103-104 General Biology I and II
- CH 130-131 General Chemistry I and II
- CH 250-251 Organic Chemistry I and II
- BI 336 Biochemistry
- PS 121-122 General Physics I and II (or PS131-132 Classical Physics)
Recommended courses that will also fulfill the college's core requirements:
- EN 105 - Freshman English
- Aesthetic Reasoning - a course in the English department, as many schools have 1 or 2 semester English requirements.
- Quantitative Reasoning - BI 345 Biostatistics, or any other statistics course such as SO212, PY301, or BU121
- Social Scientific Reasoning - any psychology or sociology course that fulfills this outcome.
Some of the professional schools (i.e. physical therapy, physician assistant, pharmacy and entry-level MS nursing) require BI 331-332 Human Anatomy and Physiology (this course is not recommended for medical or dental school preparation), and BI 318 Microbiology for majors. Students should look carefully at the programs that they may want to apply to as the requirements for these programs vary significantly.
Since your choice of major is independent of your ultimate career goals, you will have an academic advisor in the major. The chief health professions advisor will assist you in insuring that you are enrolled in the proper classes, as well as a provide assistance navigating the application process.
Prior to applying to graduate programs, the college's Preprofessional committee interviews students and writes a letter of reference for the student. The committee is comprised of faculty across disciplines who are both supportive and keenly interested in helping students proceed on their chosen paths. Interviews typically occur in the spring of the junior year.
Student Fellowship Competitions
Contact: Dr. Christine Gustafson, Associate Dean for Faculty.
The office of the Dean of the College is the official campus representative for the following scholarships and fellowships. In some instances, students applying for the fellowship or scholarship must be nominated by the office of the Dean; in other instances, the office of the Dean simply provides guidance to the student in the application process. Students interested in any of these scholarships or fellowships should get more information from the sponsoring institution's web site. Dr. Gustafson can also provide additional information.
This scholarship funds two years of graduate study at Cambridge University in a wide variety of liberal arts disciplines. A highly competitive scholarship: candidate must have an exceptionally strong academic record and good writing skills and be a first generation college student with modest financial resources. Application due in mid November.
James Madison Fellowship Program
This fellowship funds master's degree study focusing on the U.S. Constitution. Recipients must intend to become secondary school teachers of American history, American government, or social studies. Competition is national with a fellowship awarded to at least one resident of each state. Application due in March.
Jack Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship Program
This program awards thirty graduate scholarships per year in a variety of field. A highly competitive scholarship, with a fairly detailed application process. Application due in March. Visit the Jack Ken Cooke Foundation Web site.
Morris K. Udall Scholarships in Environmental Policy
Scholarships for junior and/or senior year of undergraduate education for students studying environmental issues. Also available are scholarships for Native Americans studying health care issues. Applications due in March of sophomore or junior year.
Barry M. Goldwater Scholarships
Scholarships for junior and/or senior year of undergraduate education for students committed to careers in mathematics, natural sciences, or engineering. Applications due in February of sophomore or junior year.
Harry S. Truman Scholarships
These scholarships are awarded for graduate studies in preparation for careers in public service. Applicants need to demonstrate strong academic and public service record. Applications due in February of junior year
Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest
This is an essay contest, not a scholarship or fellowship. First prize winners receive a $5,000 award, with second, third, and honorable mention winners receiving lesser awards. Open to juniors and seniors, students are challenged to write essays on a wide variety of ethical issues. Submission deadline is early December.
No single set of criteria works for every student because everyone has different priorities. Some students choose a school based solely on its academic reputation, others wait to see which school offers the best scholarship package, and some limit themselves to specific geographic regions. As you research schools, consider what schools would be the best fit for you based on any number of factors.
- Reputation of school
- Academic specialty areas/course offerings/specific professor
- Faculty/student ratio
- Geographic location
- Size of the program
- Placement of graduates
- Cost/financial aid package/scholarship offers
One way to ensure that your professors write good letters of recommendation is to do as much groundwork as possible for the professor. This is part of your responsibility as an applicant.
Start the process early in your senior year. Make an appointment to discuss graduate school and your letter. Don't just hand a professor a form as they are walking out of their office on the way to class. Do all the necessary background work for your professor.
Materials to bring to your appointment with your professor should include:
- An updated transcript, class rank
- Work you have done in the professor's class, GPA in the major, your grades from junior and senior years
- Your personal statement
- A résumé listing extracurricular work at the school, or job experiences that might be relevant to your application.
- A typed list of all the schools you need letters for, with the specific instructions for each school (some schools want multiple copies of letters; others ask for the numerical code of your department or other specific information)
- Addressed, stamped envelopes for all the schools to which you are applying.
A thank-you note to your professors after they have completed your letters is always a nice touch.
Essentially, there are two ways to pay for graduate school. You can pay them or they can pay you.
Many graduate schools offer merit-based awards such as teaching or research assistantships or graduate fellowships. These are university-based scholarships and they are awarded to the best applicants in an incoming class. Those students who have the highest GPA and GRE scores, the best letters of recommendation, and/or the highest quality research experience (if applicable) are offered free tuition and a small salary (often called a stipend).
Students who receive assistantships are expected to work, on average, 20 hours per week as either a teaching assistant or a research assistant (depending on the graduate program). Talk with the individual department about how they go about allocating assistantships and how strong a candidate you are.
Financial aid is also available to graduate students in the form of federal or state student loans that must be repaid. If you are attending a graduate program full-time, you can take out loans to help you pay.
Reference material on financial aid and scholarships is available in the Office of Academic Advisement Reference Library. Additional information can be found on the Web on the FinAid Web site.
There are additional ways of improving your chances of getting into a graduate school, including:
- meaningful work experience related to your field in some way
- post-baccalaureate classes
- part-time graduate study