Toward the end of your junior year, you hopefully have gotten experience through internships, jobs, and volunteer experiences, joined organizations on campus, and gained knowledge through the discipline you are majoring in. At this point, if you are coming to the end of your undergraduate experience, you might be thinking about what you will do after graduation.
Should you find employment, or should you move directly on to graduate school? Your decision might be influenced by several factors: if graduate schools require work experience, affordability, if a graduate degree is necessary in your field, and if you feel ready to continue taking classes. Once you make the decision to apply to graduate school, it is advisable for you to follow this timeline/checklist to make sure you are taking the correct steps to ultimately land you a spot in the graduate school of your choice.
Second Semester Junior Year
|G __||Graduate School Admission Exams|
|R __||Research programs and Register|
|A__||Advisors and counselors|
Between Junior and Senior Year
|D__||Don't delay! Deadlines for applications may be sooner than you think.|
|S__||Scholarships and Financial Aid are possible during graduate school.|
|C__||Collect more information by visiting the school, viewing school websites, and requesting the graduate admissions offices send you information.|
First Semester Senior Year
|H__||Hurry up! Applications are probably due at this time, or in just a few weeks.|
|O__||Obtain letters of recommendation, and make sure your references have sent them. It is typical for graduate schools to ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation with an application.|
Second Semester Senior Year
|O__||Organization is the key when sending out multiple applications.|
|L__||List pro/cons of different schools.|
SECOND SEMESTER JUNIOR YEAR
G __ Graduate School Admission Exams. Many graduate school programs require an entrance exam, and now is the time to start preparing. Which exam you take will differ according to what field you are entering. It's best to check with the graduate school(s) you are applying to first to determine which test is appropriate. Study guides and test information booklets are available at the Career Development and Advisement Center. To learn about taking an exam preparation course, you may want to visit www.kaplan.com , www.princetonreview.com , and www.AllAboutGradSchool.com. You might also purchase a test guide, available at most major book stores, many of which come with practice test CDs.
Generally, the most common admissions exams are:
GRE , Graduate Record Examination: for Masters programs in arts and sciences www.gre.org
MAT , Miller Analogies Test: for Masters programs in arts and sciences www.milleranalogies.com
GMAT , Graduate Management Admission Test: for Masters programs in business disciplines
LSAT , Law School Admission Test: for Law Schools www.lsac.org
MCAT, Medical College Admission Test : for Medical Schools www.aamc.org/students/mcat/start.htm
DAT, Dental Admission Test : for Dental Schools www.ada.org/prof/ed/testing/dat/index.asp
PCAT, Pharmacy College Admission Test : for Pharmacy programs www.pcatweb.info
OCAT, Optometry Admission Test : for Optometry programs www.opted.org/info_oat.cfm
R ___ Research programs that you may want to apply to. There are several ways to go about researching programs. Graduate school websites offer a wealth of information and are searchable by area, degree sought, part-time/full-time, etc. A few better known websites to research programs include, www.petersons.com, www.gradschools.com, and www.princetonreview.com. William Paterson University offers several graduate programs, http://wpunj.edu/admissions/graduate/graduate-programs.dot. Other ways to research programs may be to actually visit the college/university, ask the admissions office to mail materials to you, view guides at the career library in the Career Development and Advisement Center at William Paterson, and visit the education section of a bookstore to purchase grad school guides.
Register for the correct courses in the appropriate major/minor. By this time you should have declared a major and possibly a minor. Once you determine what graduate degree you would like to pursue, and have researched admissions requirements, you might find that you need additional coursework in your undergraduate program in order to avoid taking bridge courses that may delay the start of your graduate program. **An important point to remember: it is quite common for a student to pursue a graduate degree that is very different than his/her undergraduate degree. Many programs will welcome students from a variety of backgrounds. However, in some cases, related undergraduate coursework is necessary for admission. Once this is determined, you might want to enroll in a minor, a pre-professional program, or a concentration within your major that relates to the masters degree sought.
A__Advisors and counselors may help you to understand application requirements. Faculty and staff in your department and counselors at the Career Development and Advisement Center are available to help you prepare. The Career Development and Advisement Center library offers a variety of graduate school preparation materials that you are welcome to view.
BETWEEN JUNIOR AND SENIOR YEAR
D__Don't delay! Deadlines for applications may be sooner than you think. Check on deadlines and rolling admission policies. Some deadlines are as early as December the year before you want to begin (for fall admission).
S__Scholarships and Financial Aid are possible during graduate school. To apply for a student loan or search for scholarships, you might want to visit www.fafsa.org. Graduate schools may also offer assistance in the form of Graduate Assistant, Research Assistant, or Teaching Assistant positions, in which you work part-time on campus in exchange for tuition remission, a stipend, or both. It is best to inquire about applying to these positions with the graduate admissions office. Deadlines to apply for aid may be several months before the semester begins.
C__Collect more information by visiting the school, viewing school websites, and requesting the graduate admissions offices send you information. You may have started this research last semester, but now is the time to narrow the search and decide where to apply. In collecting these materials, be sure to locate an application. It may be online or in paper form.
FIRST SEMESTER SENIOR YEAR
H__Hurry up! Applications are probably due at this time, or in just a few weeks. The earlier you can apply, the better, and it may help to secure you a spot in the program. Make sure you complete your essay and resume, if it is part of the application process. Counselors in the Career Development and Advisement Center are available to assist you in perfecting your application materials.
It is also very important that you take the necessary exam (GRE, GMAT, LSAT, etc), several weeks in advance of the application deadline. Your results can and should be sent directly to the school you are applying to. Additionally, the school will probably request an undergraduate transcript. You can request your William Paterson transcript be sent to your desired graduate school through this link: http://www.wpunj.edu/centerss/transcripts/. Finally, it is common that you have to pay an application fee, so make sure the check is sent.
O__Obtain letters of recommendation, and make sure your references have sent them. It is typical for graduate schools to ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation with an application. They may specify who these letters should be from, but if it is not specified, always use a professional reference which can include past professors, academic advisors, and/or employers. Give your references plenty of time to write the letter, and thank your references for doing so with a thoughtful thank you note. A thank you note goes a long way, and keeps the reference in your network.
SECOND SEMESTER SENIOR YEAR
O__Organization is the key when sending out multiple applications. Keep a file at home for each application you sent with a checklist to make sure all materials have been sent. Keep all materials, information, pamphlets, and notes in your files so it will help during decision time.
Online application status: Many universities now allow you to keep track of your application status online, so you do not have to call often to see if the materials were received. Check the status online often to make sure your file is complete. If there is not an online application status feature, call the graduate admissions office to make sure your materials have been received by the deadline.
L__List pro/cons of different schools. Hopefully, at this point you have been accepted to graduate school, congratulations! If you were accepted to more than one school, you are faced with an important decision. Making a pro/con list might help you decide which school to go to. Some factors you may want to consider are cost of tuition, what time and how often classes are held, how long the program takes to complete, the program and university reputation, possibility of financial aid/scholarships/fellowships/assistantships, quality of professors, school rankings, geographic location, size of classes, etc. Visiting the universities and meeting with an admissions officer or taking a tour may help. If possible, it would also be beneficial to meet with an advisor or faculty from the department.
END OF SENIOR YEAR
You decided! Get ready to embark on the next step of your career and personal development. Like your undergraduate years, grad school can be a time of maturation, to learn about yourself, about others, and how to advance your career. Best wishes for a fruitful journey!