Graduate School Info

Choosing to go to graduate school is a very important decision that affects your career and future. Graduate school could be a great option for you if you’re considering the following:

  • Doing advanced work in a field you enjoy
  • Training for a specialized career field (law, medicine, social work, teaching, etc.)
  • Advancing your career and increasing your earning potential
  • Changing career fields

Although it may sound like a lot of work, graduate schools can help you:

  • Obtain a job quicker
  • Attain an advanced positions in your field
  • Earn a higher salary
  • Achieve other goals such as specializing in your field, publishing, consulting, etc.

Finding Graduate Schools

Research Your Career Field

Research your career field to determine whether your career field requires a graduate degree.

Talk with faculty in your undergraduate program to get some ideas. Do informational interviews and talk with people working in fields that interest you to learn more about those careers. Do research on various career fields and do some self-assessment to learn more about your skills, interests, values and goals.

Research Graduate Schools

Review different graduate school programs in depth to see what fits your career goals. Speak with faculty members, alumni, and other students to learn about different school programs.

What to look for

When you are looking at schools and programs, consider some of the following:

  • Degree Program: What courses are taught? What type of research will you conduct?
  • Location: Where are you willing to live while attending school?
  • Faculty: Who are the faculty and what are their backgrounds? What kind of research have they done and how many publications do they have?
  • Facilities: Are the labs, research and computer facilities up to date? What facilities are available to graduate students?
  • Reputation: Consider the reputation of the program and the faculty at each college.
  • Campus Environment: What size is the school and the program? Does the campus environment feel comfortable to you?
  • Graduate Internships: Are internships a required part of the degree program? Ask where students have done their internships.
  • Application requirements: Find out the admissions requirements (GPA, test scores, etc.) What is the application deadline?
  • Placement information: Ask to see the placement information for graduates of the program to learn the types of jobs, companies graduates worked at after graduation, and salaries graduates received.
  • Cost: Create a budget for each school, including tuition, room and board, books, fees and living expenses and determine if you can afford to attend each college you are considering.
  • Financial Aid: Check with the Financial Aid Office at every school to learn what they offer to graduate students.

Graduate Application

Admission Tests

Research each program to learn what graduate admissions test is required or recommended. Review the website or call the Graduate Admissions Office.

Common Tests

  • Graduate Record Examinations (GRE): A general test or specific subject tests are available
  • Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT): Business school applicants 
  • Law School Admissions Test (LSAT): Law school applicants 
  • Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT): Medical school applicants 
  • Miller Analogies Test (MAT): Tests general information on a variety of subjects through analogies
  • Test for English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Test of Spoken English (TSE): These tests may be required if your native language is not English 

Part of the decision for acceptance to a program will likely depend upon your test scores. Many graduate admissions tests are offered throughout the year and can be taken online. It is recommended to take the tests early in order to submit the scores with your application or if you want to take the tests over to improve your scores.

Personal Statement Essay

Most graduate schools will ask you to write a personal statement or essay as part of the application process. This is an important part of the application which will be read by an admissions committee in the academic department to which you are applying. The committee members will look for your well thought-out goals for pursuing graduate school and your passion for this field of study. They also will look for anything unique about you that will make you a strong graduate school candidate. It can be the deciding factor in whether you are accepted or not, so always understand the importance of this statement/essay.

In your statement, you should:

  • Tell your short and long-term goals
  • Explain why you are interested in this specific graduate program
  • Describe your strengths, interests, skills, and experience
  • Be specific about your research interests and how that school’s program of study matches with your interests.
  • Provide more information about you as a person, which can give you the edge over other candidates
  • Explain any noticeable weaknesses in your records
  • Show how well you articulate your thoughts. Are you a clear and logical thinker?
  • Demonstrate your writing ability and your communication skills

Take the time to write your statement and have a professor read your statement to give feedback before you submit it. The RIT Writing Commons can assist you with writing and editing your personal statement/essay.

Grad School Timeline

  • Start to identify programs and colleges of interest
  • Research college web sites for degree information and online applications
  • Make note of deadlines for each college
  • Determine graduate entrance exam requirements and begin to prepare, and take the graduate admissions exam
  • Investigate national scholarships
  • Continue to research programs
  • Take appropriate standardized tests a second time, if necessary
  • Write draft of personal statement/essay
  • Research financial aid, assistantships, scholarships, etc.
  • Request letters of recommendation from faculty members and supervisors
  • Attend graduate school fairs and events
  • Finalize personal statement/essay; have it critiqued by a faculty member
  • Complete applications
  • Submit requests for official transcripts to the Registrar’s Office to send with your applications
  • Continue to research financial aid opportunities
  • Submit applications at least one month before deadlines; earlier for colleges with rolling admission deadlines – this can help with early acceptance decisions and financial awards
  • Write thank you notes to each person who wrote a letter of recommendation for you
  • Contact schools to set up a visit and interview with academic departments of interest
  • Fill out the FAFSA Financial Form. Fill out any other Financial Aid forms the schools require
  • Check with all colleges prior to their deadlines to make sure your application has been received and is complete
  • Review acceptances/wait list offers
  • Discuss opportunities with Carolyn DeHority in the Office of Career Services and Co-op Office and/or faculty members if you need help
  • Make decision and notify college you have selected – send your deposit
  • Withdraw applications from all other colleges

Financial Aid

Graduate school is expensive and financial aid is an important part of the decision-making process. Check with the Financial Aid Office at each college to determine the types of funding available for which you are eligible. Funding is often provided by the academic departments.

Assistantships

These typically offer a tuition waiver or reduction and some level of stipend for living expenses.

  • Teaching Assistantships: You assist a professor in class or you teach a class of your own. Typically involves working 10 to 20 hours per week.
  • Research Assistantships: You assist a professor with some type of research. The work is often related to your own research interests.
  • Other Assistantships: There may be graduate assistantships available working in offices such as Financial Aid or Career Services. You may help students, assist with office work or present to groups of students.
  • Resident Assistantships: Some colleges offer a stipend, room and board, or both to have graduate students work as assistants in undergraduate residence halls.

Fellowships, Scholarships, and Grants

These are cash awards usually given to students with special qualifications, such as academic excellence or affiliation with a specific group. They do not have to be repaid. They typically include a stipend for living expenses and cover the cost of registration fees and tuition. The only requirement is that you typically must keep your grades up and make satisfactory progress towards your degree.

Work-Study

This is not offered at every graduate school. This type of financial aid is for students with financial need. Check with the Financial Aid Office about requirements and to determine if you are eligible if it is available.

Loans

A loan is a form of financial aid that must be repaid with interest. There are several different types of student loans, including Stafford Student Loans, Perkins Loans, and Plus Loans. Many private lenders offer loans. These are based on pre-set policies and formulas and on the student’s financial need. For more information, check out Federal Student Aid.

Employer Financed Schooling

Some employers will provide partial or full tuition reimbursement, depending upon the relevance of the course work to the employee’s job and the grades that the person achieves in these courses. If you are employed, check with your employer or human resources department to see if this benefit is offered.

Resources