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If you are a current college student, you are probably very familiar with the benefits of getting an education, but have you explored going even further by working towards a masters or doctoral degree? Some careers require post-baccalaureate degrees, such as: social workers, psychologists, college professors, doctors, and lawyers.





Road to Grad School

In the Road to Graduate School you can consider if Graduate School is for You, review a Timeline for Success, Find the Graduate Program for You, get important information about Graduate Entrance Exams, be guided through the Application Process, and gain tips for achieving success in Academic Interviews.


Is Graduate School for You?

A Guide for Potential Grad Students: Should You Go To Graduate School?

Are you considering going to graduate school? Are you aware of all your options, and what a graduate program involves -- financially, mentally, and emotionally?

Graduate School: Is It for You?

Students choose to continue on to graduate school for many reasons. A graduate degree is required for most positions in academe, as well as upper level positions in industry. In most cases, a graduate degree offers you a chance to work on your own research project within a faculty laboratory and gain valuable experience. In addition, you can earn up to 50 percent more than your peers with a bachelor's degree.

Master's or Ph.D.: Graduate Degree Options

The two main types of graduate degrees offered are the master's degree and the doctoral degree. In most fields, the doctoral degree is known as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). In some specialized fields, the doctoral degree goes by another name such as a juris doctor (J.D.) degree in the field of law, or names such as Doctor of Physical Therapy or Doctor of Pharmacy.

Is A PhD Really Worth It? Or A Waste of Time?

A PhD can give you credibility, upwards mobility and technical expertise for your job. It can also serve as a way to discover yourself. Skills learned during a PhD are invaluable in many ways, but are these transferable skills enough to land your first job?


Advice to Graduate Students: From Application to Career

This document is addressed to graduate students, both prospective and current. It considers both those studying English and those studying foreign languages and covers issues relevant to candidates for master's degrees and candidates for doctorates.

A Checklist of Questions for Graduate Schools, Programs, and Departments (PDF)

These questions from Pathways to Science will help you get the information you need to choose the right graduate program for you

Tips on Preparing for and Applying to Graduate School (Humanities or Social Sciences)

This brochure has been created to provide an overview of the graduate school application process for those interested in doctoral degree programs in the humanities or social sciences. (The Leadership Alliance PDF)

Tips on Preparing for and Applying to Graduate School (Biological or Physical Sciences)

The brochure has been created to provide an overview of the graduate school application process for those interested in a PhD in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines or those interested in a joint MD-PhD degree. (The Leadership Alliance PDF)

A Companion Guide for Tips on Preparing for and Applying to Graduate School

While we will primarily address those students applying in the sciences, the comments, for the most part, are equally applicable to students applying to any graduate field. We will briefly discuss with you how to prepare for graduate school, what you should be looking for in a graduate program, what graduate programs are looking for, how to prepare and submit an application, how to prepare for and present yourself at an interview, and finally, how to finance your graduate education. (The Leadership Alliance PDF)

Getting Into Law School: A Guide for Pre-Law Students

Students considering or preparing to enter law school can use this guide as a resource before, during and after the admissions process. This guide is a compilation of helpful insights, advice and details regarding admissions, first year law school experience adn financial investment.

How to Choose a Graduate Training Program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Related Fields

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) provides information about choosing a graduate program by offering Potential Criteria and Questions You Should ask about I-O Psychology Graduate Programs

Guide to Applying to a Graduate Program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Related Fields

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) provides tips for applying to a grad program in industrial and organizational (I-O). If you are considering pursuing a career in I-O psychology, you should begin thinking about graduate study as early as possible in your undergraduate career.

5 Tips For Adult Learners Returning to Education

Choosing to return to studying, whether it is finding the funds or worrying about the tests, can be stressful for adult learners. Getting extra qualifications or taking a few adult courses can boost your skills and increase your earnings, a very smart move in this current economy. These five tips for adult learners returning to education will help ease your nerves and make your life easier when thinking about gaining qualifications. 

What Can I Do With This Major? 

Whether you are exploring multiple majors or searching for information about your chosen field, this site will help you connect majors to careers. Learn about the typical career areas and the types of employers that hire people with each major, as well as strategies to make you a more marketable candidate. Continue your research on majors and careers through the websites provided.



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Applying to Graduate School: Timeline for Success

Start reading about careers and subfields in your academic discipline
  1. Explore your interests with faculty in your discipline.
  2. Attend lectures and other events sponsored by your academic department.
  3. Meet with one or more of your professors to determine the electives in math, science, computer science, psychology, and other areas that might be an asset in applying to graduate school.
  4. Research faculty interests at your school, read their articles, and make acquaintance with professors whose work interests you.
  5. Volunteer to assist a professor with research (this gives you valuable experience and is also a way of letting your professors get to know you as a prelude to your asking for a letter of recommendation).
  6. Find out if you qualify for any honor societies and consider becoming a member.
  7. Consider getting research and/or other field-related experiences pertinent to those areas of your academic discipline that you are interested in.
  8. Begin to get acquainted with the publication Peterson’s Graduate and Professional Programs, which you may be able to find in your university library.
  9. Make note of all of the graduate programs that you are interested in.
  10. Check out career services at your school and on-line to see what resources they have regarding applying to graduate programs.
  11. Find out about state, regional, and national organizations holding conferences in your academic discipline.
  12. Attend those that interest you if you are able.
  13. Read the bulletin for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Install PowerPrep software on your computer (It is available for free at Use the guides and the program to prepare. Take practice exams to estimate what your score may be.
  14. Find out if you will also have to take a GRE subject specific exam or other standardized tests such as the CBEST, LSAT, PRAXIS, MCAT, etc.
  15. Find out what graduate programs exist by carefully studying university catalogs and websites for programs in your academic discipline.
  16. Compile a preliminary list of programs that offer the area of concentration, degree, and training models that appeal to you.
  17. Create a worksheet summarizing your qualifications and the graduate programs’ requirements.
  18. Compare your qualifications to admission requirements.
  19. Contact those programs that seem a good match to obtain additional information about the program. Ask for an application packet. Study this information carefully.
  20. Investigate the faculty within the programs that you are most interested in. What are their current research and publishing activities? Obtain and read some of the work of the faculty.
  21. Compile a final list including 9 (at minimum) graduate programs that you will apply to: 3 top ranked programs (highly competitive with high prestige) , 3 middle range programs, and 3 “safety” programs
  22. If you can afford it and if it seems worthwhile, visit the campuses of programs that interest you most or that raise the most questions for you.
  23. Call the financial aid offices of all of the schools you will be applying to. Ask for an information packet about the aid available to graduate students, as well as any forms you will need to complete to be considered for all available financial aid. Make sure that you ask about the possibility of being paid to be a Teaching Assistant (TA) or a Research Assistant (RA). Ask if there is anyone else you should talk to regarding other potential sources of funding.
  24. Go to the career planning or student center, or library, to research financial aid opportunities in addition to the ones offered by the universities to which you are applying.


Plan and schedule your application strategy
  1. Pay careful attention to application deadlines, particularly with regard to financial aid, which often have earlier deadlines than admissions applications.
  2. Record goals for each week that remains before your applications must be submitted.
  3. Calculate application fees and make sure you have enough money to cover them (some schools waive their graduate application fee because of financial hardship but this needs to be checked with each individual school).
  4. In June make your appointment to take the GRE in August or in the first week of September (This will be about one year prior to your start of a graduate program).
  5. Continue to practice with the PowerPrep software under timed conditions until you actually take the GRE.
  6. When you take the GRE request that scores be sent to all schools and scholarships that you will apply to.
  7. If you will need to take a GRE Subject Specific Examination make sure to mail your application for that examination in June or July. They are only offered 3 days a year. Pick the earliest (November) date so that your scores will be available for applications for graduate schools and for scholarships.


Some of the most competitive doctoral programs and prestigious scholarships and fellowships in the United States have application deadlines that fall in mid-to-late September - if you are applying to them adjust your timeline accordingly
  1. Print out your unofficial undergraduate transcript which you will include in your request packet for those professors who will write letters of recommendation.
  2. Finalize and copy your Curriculum Vitae (academic resume) and copy information about specific programs you will be applying to, which you will also include in your packet for those professors who will write letters for you.
  3. Begin to finalize your decision regarding which professors to ask to write letters of recommendation.
  4. Begin thinking about the various essay questions each program requires. Start making notes and allow time for your ideas to germinate


Begin contacting individuals from whom you will request letters of recommendation
  1. Begin filling out your scholarship, financial aid, and program application forms.
  2. Write first drafts of essays; ask for feedback from others.


Request that your official undergraduate transcript(s) be sent to all of the institutions and scholarships you are applying to. Make sure that your transcript(s) will be sent off before your earliest application deadline.
  1. Finalize scholarship and financial aid forms
  2. Finalize program application forms
  3. Get feedback and write the final drafts of essays
  4. Supply individuals who will write your letters of recommendation with the packet you prepared earlier, including forms sent by each school


Carefully prepare each application for mailing. Follow the instructions exactly. Be sure to photocopy each in its entirety. Consider sending them registered mail or by secured carrier.
  1. For on-line applications be sure that you re-read each section prior to submission to be sure that information you thought that you submitted, attached, or typed in actually appears the way that you want it to. Keep track of who has and has not provided the letters of recommendation and if you are nearing the deadline remind your
    recommenders if necessary.


Begin to prepare for possible pre-selection interviews. (See Determining Program Fit: What to Ask an Interviewer)
  1. Contact professors whom you have asked to submit letters of recommendation. Confirm that letters were sent and thank those who sent them.
  2. Follow up to confirm that your completed applications were received at the scholarship committees, graduate institutions and by the graduate programs.
  3. Attend any pre-selection interviews you are invited to.


As you receive multiple offers rank them regarding which you would most like to attend
  1. Examine the financial packages for each offer and examine the cost of living figures for that location
  2. If you are not accepted at any of the schools of your choice, consider applying to the “safety” schools you have identified that have application deadlines falling after March


Inform the people who wrote your letters of recommendation of the outcome

Celebrate (or regroup)


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Finding the Graduate Program for You

Peterson's Graduate School Search and Match Tool

Whether you're looking for information on finding the right university for you or how to prepare for tests like the ACT, SAT, or GRE, Peterson's provides the facts and info you'll need to make an informed decision.

Graduate Guide

An online database for students pursuing doctoral, master's and professional degree programs in the United States and Canada.

College Navigator

With this online database, you can Refine your search, Build a list of schools for side-by-side comparisons, Pinpoint school locations with an interactive map, Export search results into a spreadsheet, and Save your session including search options and favorites.

With almost 67,000 programs listed in its free directory, is the leading online resource for graduate school. You can use this site to find your ideal program by searching by subject, location and even school. Try targeting your search even more by going to sections designed specifically for MBA and business programs, international programs, distance and online programs, and a section that helps guide students from under-represented groups.


Graduate Programs by Institution Database (STEM Programs)

The Institute for Broadening Participation (IBP) program database includes 1485 programs in a variety of disciplines, education level and geographical location. An Advanced STEM Programs Search option gives additional parameters including application deadline, program start and end date, study abroad components, short term opportunities, and citizenship requirements, among others.

Social Psychology Network

The Social Psychology Network (SPN) provides a world map of graduate programs in social-personality psychology.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Related Fields

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) offers a database of programs that responded to an annual Graduate Training Programs in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Related Fields survey or programs that have requested to be listed.

NASPAA Graduate Degree Database for Public Service

The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) provides this database of accredited schools offering degrees in Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Masters in Accounting or Finance strives to be the most comprehensive resource for those interested in earning a master’s in accounting (often abbreviated as MAc, MAcc, or MAcy) or master’s in finance. On our site you will find student reviews, scholarshipsstudent guides, a jobs boardpossible career paths, and salary outlook information relating to advanced degrees in accounting, as well as profiles of top programs and their ratings from various sources. Prospective students can also research online master’s in accounting degree programs and schools

Native American Studies

National Indian Education Association (NIEA) believes Native culture and language are essential components of a Native student's education. This list is for those students who are interested in earning a college degree with an emphasis in Native language, culture or history.

A Guide to Native American Studies Programs in the US and Canada

A comprehensive survey of U.S. and Canadian Native American Studies programs being offered as majors, minors, and certifications at the baccalaureate level or above. The guide was originally published in 1993 by the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures (ASAIL) and updated to electronic form to be available to both ASAIL members and non-members.

Tribal Colleges & Universities

National Indian Education Association (NIEA) believes Native culture and language are essential components of a Native student's education. This list is for those students who are interested in earning a college degree with an emphasis in Native language, culture or history at a traditionally tribal college or university.

University of California Graduate Programs

Start by browsing through the programs offered by each campus; then dig deeper by visiting the schools' websites.


Before applying to a degree program overseas, it is important to understand the admissions requirements of the universities to which you are applying.

Canadian Universities offers profiles of Canadian universities, a large study programs database and helps you plan your university education. The information on this site is provided by Universities Canada and its 97 member universities.

Degrees Abroad - Center for International Study

The Center for International Studies (CIS), is an international education organization dedicated to serving the needs of students looking to pursue an education abroad, both for full degree and for short-term, non-degree experiences.

Degrees Abroad - Contacts List offers this list of contacts from international schools, making it easier for you to get the information you need.

Study in the UK

The British Council offers information about planning your studies in the UK.

Graduate Schools by Country provides this database of graduate schools by country. You can start with a field of study or select multiple countries at once.

Graduate Programs Worldwide provides country and program guides for studying internationally.

Masters Portal provides a database of over 50,000 master's degrees worldwide.

Across the Pond

Across the Pond provides student advice and guidance to US students looking to study at universities in the UK. They represent over 40 universities across the UK.


Online doctoral programs are also offered at some "brick and mortar" universities, and may be located through a search of institutions offering doctoral degrees in the desired discipline. 

Top Online PhD Programs

Open Education Database (OEDb) Ph.D. rankings showcase the universities offering the best online doctoral degree programs this year. They also offer a Degree Finder to search sponsored schools.

Guide to Online Doctoral Programs

Guide to Online Schools' comprehensive list of accredited online doctoral programs includes 175 online schools and 942 online programs ranging from computer science to educational leadership. You can also find important information about your field like what accreditation is required and graduate number statistics.

Walden University

Walden has been accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) since 1990. The HLC is one of six regional accrediting associations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Complete list of specialized and program-specific accreditation.

Alliant International University

Alliant International University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, a regional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the same agency under which other prestigious California and western U.S. schools are accredited such as Stanford, USC and UCLA. Complete list of specialized and program-specific accreditation

Fielding University

Fielding Graduate University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Complete list of specialized and program-specific accreditation.

Capella University

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The Higher Learning Commission is among the 6 regional accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Regional bodies accredit colleges and universities; national bodies accredit trade and vocational schools. Complete list of specialized and program-specific accreditation.



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Graduate School Entrance Tests

Graduate Admissions Test Dates's list of testing dates for the following: GRE, GMAT, LSAT, Praxis Series, TOEFL, MAT, PCAT, MCAT, DAT, OAT.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Accepted by thousands of graduate and business schools, the GRE® revised General Test is the only graduate-level admissions test that lets you skip questions and go back, change your answers and have control to tackle the questions you want to answer first.

Fees for the GRE

 Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)

Quality graduate business programs rely on the GMAT to make admissions decisions, so if you’re serious about business school, then the GMAT is your best first step. 

Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)

The test is an integral part of the law school admission process in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries. The test helps law schools make sound admission decisions by providing a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that are essential for success in law school.

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

The test, developed and administered by the AAMC, is a standardized, multiple-choice examination created to help medical school admissions offices assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.

The Praxis Series Tests

The Praxis Series® tests are taken by individuals entering the teaching profession as part of the certification process required by many states and professional licensing organizations.




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The Graduate School Application Process

Preparing for the Application Process for Graduate School (PDF)

Prepared by Hegi Family Career Development Center at Southern Methodist University, this guide reviews making the decision to go to graduate school, the application process timeline, personal statements, securing letters of recommendation, and financing your graduate education.

Admissions and the Application

The admission and application process involves more than taking tests, writing an essay or two, and completing the application and hitting "submit." This guide, prepared by, covers everything involved with the admission and application process, from interacting with the admissions office to finishing up prerequisite courses.

Tips on Applying to Grad School (PDF)

Pathways to Science created this short guide offering things to keep in mind when preparing to apply to graduate school: become familiar with the department to which you are applying, know your funding options, questions to ask, recognizing the importance of your advisor, and completing summer research as an undergraduate.

Tips on Creating a Winning Application (PDF)

Pathways to Science created this 1-page guide to help you get organized before you apply.

How NOT to Impress in the Application Process

joint 2006 study (PDF) from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Idaho State University identified five major categories, known as “Kisses of Death,” that disintegrated applicants’ chances of entering their favorite programs.

Behind the Curtain: How Admissions Committees Review Graduate Applications (PDF)

PowerPoint Presentation prepared by professors from Stanford University

Applying to Graduate School: Tips Timeline, and Tools of the Trade (PDF)

This guidebook is provided by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), an academic consortium of 12 research universities founded in 1958.

For tips on Applying for Scholarships or Fellowships, please visit Applications for Fellowships and Scholarships in Foundations for Educational Success.


So, you want to go to grad school? Nail the inquiry email

Academic culture isn't always intuitive, and reaching out with that first, inquiry email is important. This guide offers advice on where to start and provides a very useful "Things to Do Long Before You Write an Inquiry Email" list.

How does contacting a professor before applying factor into graduate admissions?

This question is answered by a professor who provides his perspective on when to contact faculty in advance of your acceptance to a program and, more importantly, what you should write to them.

Is it a good idea to contact professors before applying to grad schools?

Academia Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for academics and those enrolled in higher education. This question is answered by users and provides different perspectives to consider.

Application Etiquette

University of California Berkeley provides a short list of suggestions to consider as you begin to apply to graduate school and interact with faculty members and graduate students.

Applying to Graduate School - Contacting Professors (STEM fields)

Laura E. Mariani is a Neuroscience PhD candidate at Emory University. She offers advice to students pursuing degrees in the STEM fields, some of which can be universally applied.

Advice for Prospective Research Students

A professor from the University of Virginia offers advice on who to contact, doing research before making contact, and provides sample first contact emails. Also included are tips on what not to do and remembering to follow up after first contact.

The following tips are from 4 Tips to email Professors for Graduate School Admission in the USA. The website hosting this article has a lot of advertisements, therefore we chose to include the list here rather than only provide the link.

  1. Subject line is the most important piece of email
    • The key is to mention Prospective Student and indicate briefly what you are seeking (i.e. Admission Information Needed, Research Question, etc.)
  2. English, Grammar and Punctuation in the Email
    • Emails that are not proofread prior to sending, contain poor grammar, or are not written in proper English indicate your incompetency and lack of writing skills
    • Do not use chat language like ‘c u then, hw r u ?, life gud…’ 
  3. Research the professor you are contacting
    • Professors specialize in particular research areas, and it would be counterproductive to contact a professor for information outside of his or her specialty
  4. How to Ask about Admission, Fellowships or Assistantships in email
    • Frame your sentences to indicate your interest in a school and program
    • Do your homework on the program and school so you can be genuine and write sincerely about your interest


AAMC Choosing a Medical Career and Applying to Medical School

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides helpful Fact Sheets for aspiring doctors, including: applying to medical school as an international application, deciding where to apply, preparing for medical school interviews, dealing with application anxiety and how medical schools review applications.

Tips to Successfully Complete your AMCAS Application (PDF)

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) offers this one-page guide for completing your AMCAS Application.

American Psychological Association: Choosing a Program and Applying to Grad School

The APA offers guidance for students applying to graduate school in psychology regarding: questions to ask, the costs involved, the application timeline, mistakes to avoid in an application, transitioning from a master's to a doctoral program and more.


The Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose are not the same, although sometimes these two phrases are, incorrectly, used interchangeably.

Peterson's Blog provides hints on how to submit the write essay to your program:

Personal Statement

A personal statement gives you more leeway than a statement of purpose. However, this can also be more challenging in that you need to show your readiness for a graduate program both in terms of skills and character. The majority of the essay needs to be about your passion for your chosen field and why you have chosen to apply to a particular program. If you have space left over in the essay, you may want to write about an experience not directly related to your field, such as volunteer service. Even so, end the passage with a clear statement about how that experience has better prepared you for graduate studies.

Statement of Purpose

A statement of purpose should have a sharper focus than a personal statement.  In your statement of purpose, place the emphasis on all of the reasons that you are applying to graduate school. You may want to write about experiences directly related to the graduate program and go into detail about why you are choosing a specific program. Information about particular classes, professors whose work you admire or whose work aligns with your own research goals, and other factors like location of the school or internship opportunities should be included. Avoid writing about anything not directly related to the program.


What Should I Write About in My Graduate Personal Statement?

There is no silver bullet, no detailed content map that will ultimately guarantee success. Peterson's staff prepared this guideline to help you create an effective personal statement that will help get you noticed.

11 Tips for Writing a Powerful Statement of Purpose

CrunchPrep provides tips for writing your Statement of Purpose, how to make it stand out, and provides a checklist for completion.

Sell Yourself: Guidance for Developing Your Personal Statement for Graduate School Applications

Brian Rybarczyk, a program coordinator of undergraduate educational research programs, writes for about the mistakes students commonly make and offers suggestions about how to present yourself effectively.

Writing the Personal Statement

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.

Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School (PDF)

The Psychology Writing Center at University of Washington prepared this guide, which focuses on writing a Clear, Creative and Concise Personal Statement for any field of study.

Writing Multiple Graduate School Personal Statements (PDF)

Applying to more than one school is a very good idea, but it's important to tailor each personal statement to each individual school. This guide, prepared by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, provides prompt questions to help you along in the process of writing multiple personal statements.

How to Write a Great Statement of Purpose

A helpful guide written by Vince Gotera, a professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Northern Iowa.

Writing the Graduate School Statement of Purpose

The Princeton Review offers advice on understanding what admissions committees are looking for, what to include, and how to make your statement of purpose unique.

Writing the Statement of Purpose

Berkeley Graduate Division breaks down the different parts of your statement of purpose and offers some essential tips.

Writing Personal Statements Online

Penn State University offers this Handbook for Students Applying for Scholarships and Graduate Study. A writing tutor who has provided guidance on more than a thousand graduate applications, Joe Schall advises you on how to be competitive but not cocky, informed but not formulaic, openly creative yet professional.

How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School (Psychology, Math & the Humanities) (video)

Wendy Overend, Ph.D, discusses the Personal Statement required for Pacifica Graduate Institute's admissions application.

How to Write an Excellent Personal Statement (video)

Widening participation manager Jane Marshall, talks about the do's and don'ts of personal statements.

Purdue OWL: Personal Statements (video)

This vidcast discusses how to create personal statements for school admissions and scholarships.

Science Career Path - Personal Statement (video)

Carisa Noelani Orwig, Manager of a Chemical Biology Graduate Program, talks about writing a personal statement for graduate school applications. She gives tips on the important aspects to highlight in it.

Think Grad School - Applications - Statement of Purpose (video)

This video briefly introduces the statement of purpose, which is the crown jewel of a grad school application.

Statement of Purpose (video)

This 18-minute presentation is provided by University of California Berkeley's Graduate Diversity Director of Arts and Humanities, Josephine Moreno, Ph.D.


For tips on writing Personal Statements for Scholarships or Fellowships, please visit Applications for Fellowships and Scholarships in Foundations for Educational Success.


Write a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off

Writing an amazing graduate school essay is probably far more straightforward than you might think. Peterson's offers a view into what admissions officers are looking for in your essay.

Writing Strong Essays & Personal Statements (PDF)

Adapted from contributions by Tammy Hoyer (Senior Program Manager at the Undergraduate Research Center, University of California, Davis).

Graduate Admissions Essays 4th Edition

Donald Asher's fourth edition of this go-to guide for crafting winning essays for any type of graduate program or scholarship, including PhD, master’s, MBA, MD, JD, postdocs, DDS, DVM, Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, and more. Asher is a a writer and speaker specializing in careers and higher education.

For tips on writing Personal Statements for Scholarships or Fellowships, please visit Applications for Fellowships and Scholarships in Foundations for Educational Success.


Getting Strong Letters of Recommendation (PDF)

Pathways to Science offers an article that will help you understand the process, get organized, and navigate the twists and turns of asking for a letter of recommendation.

How to Request a Strong Letter of Recommendation from Dr. Appleby

Dr. Drew Appleby is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis and an expert on graduate admissions, specifically graduate admissions in psychology. He provides suggestions for how to ask for letters of recommendation that would work for him and, possibly, other professors.

Instructions for Requesting Letters of Recommendation for McNair Scholars (PDF)

This guide provides tips for Before and After Contacting Recommenders, Preparing Scholar Information Packets, and Before and After Receiving Offers.

For tips on requesting Letters of Recommendation for Scholarships or Fellowships, please visit Applications for Fellowships and Scholarships in Foundations for Educational Success.


McNair Scholars Fee Waiver List

A list containing over 200 graduate schools that waive application fees for McNair Scholars. 

Request for Application Waiver Form (For McNair Scholars) (PDF)

This form should be completed and submitted to the school to which you are applying.

FreeApp Program

FreeApp is designed to increase access to graduate education for students who possess qualities and experiences that enhance the diversity of the intellectual, cultural, and social environments at CIC universities.  Through this program, prospective students can request a graduate application fee waiver for Ph.D. or Master of Fine Arts programs at participating universities.


The Graduate School Campus Visit

Visiting the campus may not be a mandatory exercise, but it can be really helpful in your search for the right school. It can also give the admissions office a stronger sense of who you are as a person, beyond your application.

Virtual Campus Tours

This resource is useful if you are not able to physically visit a campus. Search schools in the USA, UK, France, China, and Canada.


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Academic Interviews

Preparing for Academic Interviews (PDF)

The Office of Intramural Training & Education at the National Institutes of Health prepared this three-page guide for researching institutions, preparing for questions about yourself and offers sample questions you may be asked related to research, teaching, and your career and personal choices.

Five FAQs about interviewing for graduate school

The American Psychological Association (APA) has compiled these tips to help you prepare for the interview process. Regardless of your field of study, you may find useful information.

Preparing for Your Interview offers an overview of the purpose of graduate school interviews, what to expect at the interview, how to prepare, what your goal is during the interview, and how to respond after the interview.

For tips on Interviewing for Scholarships or Fellowships, please visit Applications for Fellowships and Scholarships in Foundations for Educational Success.


Interview etiquette requires that you, as the applicant, allow the interviewer to direct and control the first part of the interview. At some point, however, the interviewer will turn to you and ask if you have any questions.

Asking questions not only helps you as a candidate determine the “fit” of the program with your desired academic and career objectives, but it also communicates to the selection committee the extent of your interest in their program.

  • What characteristics distinguish this program from others in the same academic field?
  • How long does it take typically to complete the program?
  • Where are recent alumni employed? What do most graduates do after graduation?
  • What types of financial aid are offered? What criteria are used for choosing recipients?
  • What opportunities are available through the program to gain practical work experience?
  • Are there opportunities such as assistantships, fellowships or internships available? What are the deadlines to apply for these opportunities?
  • Are there any scholarships or fellowships available? How do I apply?
  • Do most students publish an article/conduct research prior to graduation?
  • I've read articles written by ________ and __ --____. To what extent are students involved in assisting these faculty members with related research projects?
  • What types of research projects are current students pursuing?
  • How are graduate test scores, grades, letters of recommendations, and personal statements evaluated for the admissions process?
  • What is the selection timeline? When will candidates be notified about their acceptance into the program?
  • When will you be making your final decision for admitted students?
  • What do you see as my greatest strengths and weaknesses in terms of your program?
  • Can you tell me how my performance in your program will be evaluated?
  • What type of teaching and guidance style of the program as a whole?
  • What freedom will I have in my research?
  • What are the expectations of the program and faculty in your program?
  • What is generally expected for the first six months of this program?
  • What would consider the most challenging portion of your program?

For tips on Interviewing for Scholarships or Fellowships, please visit Applications for Fellowships and Scholarships in Foundations for Educational Success.


You will undoubtedly encounter questions that related specifically to your chosen field of study. Be certain that you are aware of current trends, issues and controversy in your field so that you will be able to answer questions intelligibly.
  • What do you believe to be the major trends in your intended career field at this time?
  • What do you think about _____________ (current event)?
  • What problem in the world troubles you most? What would you do about it?
  • What is the most important development in this field over the past 25 years, and why?
  • Tell me more about how my work fits into the whole picture?
  • Describe the type of student who does best in your company?

For tips on Interviewing for Scholarships or Fellowships, please visit Applications for Fellowships and Scholarshipsin Foundations for Educational Success.


Poor questions deal with salary, benefits, vacation, or security. These self-centered questions indicate that you are more concerned about what is in it for you than what you can offer the company. Wait until the company shows interest, during a second interview, before asking these types of questions.

For tips on Interviewing for Scholarships or Fellowships, please visit Applications for Fellowships and Scholarships in Foundations for Educational Success.



So You Received an Offer (or Two)...Now What?

Council of Graduate Schools: Resolution Regarding Graduate Scholars, Fellows, Trainees and Assistants (PDF)

Acceptance of an offer of financial support (such as a graduate scholarship, fellowship, traineeship, or assistantship) for the next academic year by a prospective or enrolled graduate student completes an agreement that both student and graduate school expect to honor. This PDF contains a list of CGS member institutions that indicated their support of the Resolution.

How to evaluate a graduate school admissions offer

Most students will receive all their offers of admission by mid-March, which leaves 4-6 weeks to make your final decision. This guide helps evaluate one of four possible results from the admissions office: accepted with funding, accepted without funding, waitlisted or rejected.

The following steps are from Take 7 Steps After Being Admitted to Graduate School. The website hosting this article has a lot of advertisements, therefore we chose to include the list here rather than only provide the link.

  1. Thank those who helped you 
    • Show your appreciation to family, friends, recommenders, or interviewers
  2. Read thoroughly any admitted student info you are sent
    • Clearly mark your calendar with any deadlines for enrollment deposits, financial aid documents, class registration, housing, advising and orientation
  3. Talk to your new classmates
    • Knowing some of your student colleagues before you enroll is helpful
  4. Schedule a campus visit
    • Whether or not you have already visited
  5. Prepare to relocate
    • Most institutions can help, but you will need to do a lot on your own
  6. Start working on your financial plan
    • Even if you are not relocating geographically, there is a lot to consider in this time-consuming process
  7. Keep a list of suggestions
    • Make a list of suggestions and compliments to share with admissions staff after you enroll; admissions staff members are looking for ways to improve their service with admitted students


The following is from What To Do Once You Have a Grad School Offer. The website hosting this article has a lot of advertisements, therefore we chose to include the information here rather than only provide the link.

  • If Your Offer is Funded, You Have Until April 15 to Decide
    • The Council of Graduate Schools has published a set of guidelines since the 1960s governing the acceptance of funded graduate admissions offers. It states that any grad school applicant receiving an offer with financial support in the form of scholarships, fellowships, or assistantships, has until April 15 to evaluate his or her choices. Most universities adhere to these guidelines, so, if you received funding, don't cave into pressure to make a rushed decision.
  • How to (Enthusiastically) Accept an Offer
    • You've done it. You're in. What should you do next? Start by accepting your offer enthusiastically. You'll be spending the next years in a small community and it pays dividends to make an impression. It's not so important whether you accept your offer by phone or email, but it is important that you convey your excitement about starting the program. If you've been in touch with more than one professor, it's a great idea to contact them all and thank them for their support.
  • How to (Gracefully) Reject an Offer
    • Sometimes, the tables turn. Perhaps you've received two offers and need to turn one down. While it's tempting to reject a school with a one sentence email, there's something to be said about maintaining relationships. Academia is a small world and you never know when your gaffe might come back to haunt you. In the same way that you'd like to be let down gently when rejected, schools do too. So email or call them, thank them for their confidence in you, and explain that you've decided to attend another program and explain the reasons.
  • How to Deal with Deadlines If You Need More Time
    • You may run into a thorny situation where you receive an offer from "School A" that expires before you hear back from "School B". What in the dickens are you supposed to do then? If this happens, you can remind the schools of the CGS April 15 deadline if your offer is funded. If it isn't, you should speak to "School B" and inform them of the expiring offer. Reiterate your interest in their program and ask whether they've finalized their admission decisions. If they haven't, contact "School A" and request an extension. Explain that you haven't heard back from all schools and want to make a fully informed decision about your grad school offer.

What happens if I accept a fully funded PhD offer at a grad school in the US, and then want to decline it because of a much better offer after the April 15 deadline?

The answers provided on Quora, a question and user-answered website, for changing your mind after accepting an offer provide insights for handling this situation.


  1. Apply earlier (avoid the last six weeks before the deadline)
  2. Apply to more schools (six is usually considered a prudent minimum: two safe schools, two middle of the road schools, two reach schools)
  3. Apply to more safe schools (even 4.0 students can, and do, get rejected)
  4. Visit and wow ‘em; be sure to follow Asher’s LawThou shalt not call, write, nor visit any professor without having read some of his/her work first!
  5. Go to summer school in the targeted school and wow ‘em (it’s easy to get into summer school, even at Harvard)
  6. Take one class at a time in the targeted subject and wow ‘em (member: your most recent grades count the most)
  7. Get volunteer or internship experiences in the targeted field (even part-time, even unpaid)
  8. Work in a “real job” in the targeted field (there’s no substitute for actual experience, and recommendations from supervisors in the profession)
  9. Get an intermediate degree (such as a master’s or even just a credential)
  10. Get older and try again (many times, that’s all it takes)


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