Graduate school is a great option if you’re dedicated to your field of interest and career direction. It involves a tremendous commitment and you should be sure—both personally and professionally—that it’s worth the time, energy, and expense.
Considering Graduate School
Deciding whether or not to attend graduate school, in which field, and when to attend, are important questions to consider. Talk over your thoughts and concerns with a career coach and/or academic advisor. Learning about your field through written sources and by talking to professionals can provide helpful information. You can utilize the Career Resource Center Library, LinkedIn, and the Internet to learn more about your field and graduate school options.
Applying to graduate school is time-consuming and costly. Most graduate schools charge a nonrefundable application fee. (Some graduate programs provide application fee waivers for students who demonstrate financial need. Inquire about this with the admissions office.)
Learn as much as you can about the graduate programs you’re considering before beginning the application process.
- Review graduate school catalogs online or request your own copy from graduate admissions offices.
- Talk with Lesley faculty and/or your advisor to gain insights into specific programs and schools.
- Inquire about graduate information sessions for prospective students. Also, contact and meet with the graduate advisor and/or faculty at the schools that interest you. Ask for several names of current students and alumni of the program. The more people you speak with, the better informed you will be and the more able to make an intelligent decision.
- Learn about career paths related to the graduate program you are considering.
- Contact the Higher Education Information Center at the Boston Public Library, either by calling their local number at 617.536.0200 or the Career and Learning Line at 1.800.442.1171, for catalogs and information on programs across the U.S. as well as financial aid resources.
Factors to Consider
Here are some important factors to consider when deciding where to apply.
The focus and philosophy of a specific kind of graduate program may differ greatly from one institution to another. This means that curricula and degree requirements for programs may vary. Research and choose schools that will serve your academic needs and have a philosophy and approach similar to your own. Review the course descriptions of required and elective courses, and learn whether a thesis is required.
Learn the specific areas of expertise of faculty in the program and see how closely their research interests match your own. You may want to look up faculty articles and papers and read them to determine their interests and approach. Many graduate programs include faculty profiles with their curriculum vitae (an academic resume) which you can also review.
When evaluating a graduate program or school, you should consider the faculty, facilities, student body, job search success of graduates, career services, and reputation.
Investigate the highest degree received by faculty members and their availability to graduate students; nature and breadth of library resources and research facilities; educational and work history of current students; marketability of degree holders; extent of career-related assistance; and overall program and school reputation both in and outside academia.
Some financial aid is available to most graduate students. In addition to federally insured student loans, you can also receive financial assistance (although scarce) via fellowships, assistantships, traineeships, and grants. Check with the financial aid office of each school you’re considering to find out what they offer. The chances for financial aid are increased the earlier you apply. You may need to research additional sources of financial aid independent of your program. Many universities also offer full or partial tuition remission to employees. You can also apply for residence life positions, especially if you served as a Community Advisor as an undergraduate student.
There are many components to the graduate school application, so the sooner you begin to complete your “package,” the better.
Deadline dates and policies differ among institutions and most institutions will not act on an application until all materials have been received. The weight given to each component of the application package will vary greatly in different institutions and programs.
Here are some of the major components of the application process:
Most graduate school applications are online forms.
Copy the application and use the copy as a working draft.
Essay Question or Personal Statement
Well-prepared essay questions and personal statements are crucial to acceptance. Devote serious thought and time to your responses. Admissions Committee members want to know not only how you think, but also how well you organize and transfer your thoughts to paper.
Keep answers brief and to the point, including all pertinent information about your past experiences and educational goals. Personal statements should be edited and revised, with careful attention to grammar, spelling and proofreading. Career coaches in the Career Resource Center can review your application essays.
Generally, three letters of recommendation are required as part of the application package. Letters should be written by former professors and employers who can speak to your aptitude, motivation, and ability to succeed in an advanced academic environment, as well as your commitment to the field of study. Request letters well in advance of your deadline, and agree with your recommender on a deadline for the letter to be submitted. Letters are usually submitted through an online system.
For those schools that require entrance examinations, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) are most commonly used.
Some schools supplement or replace these exams with tests of their own. The GRE is an aptitude test with verbal, quantitative and analytic sections, each scored separately. In addition, the GRE offers advanced tests in 22 fields of graduate study.
The 50-minute MAT presents analogy matches designed to measure verbal and reasoning ability.
Our Career Resource Center has test information for the GRE and MAT.
Other exams include the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), and the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Be sure to check the entrance exam requirements of the specific program to which you are applying. Not all graduate programs require an entrance examination.
Graduate schools generally require a “B” average for acceptance. However, institutions differ in how this average is interpreted. Official undergraduate transcripts are required as part of the application package.
Graduate School & Test Prep Resources
College Test Preparation
International College/University Catalogs
U.S. College/University Catalogs
- Independent MA Colleges and Universities
- MA Colleges Online
- MA Universities Online
- Online Colleges
- Pre-med Post Baccalaureate Programs
If you are applying to a graduate program at Lesley University, and have questions about the application process, please contact a graduate admissions counselor.