Graduate School: The Next Step?

The decision to attend graduate school and the choice of an institution and degree program require serious consideration. The time, money, and energy you will expend doing graduate work are significant, and you will want to analyze your options carefully.

Whether or not you go to graduate school involves doing a great deal of research, having a solid career plan, and knowing yourself. When making your decision you must consider all the aspects that graduate school involves such as whether you should go, how to find the best program,  entrance requirements and exams, recommendations, applications, how you will pay for graduate school, and what if happens if you don’t get in?

When making decisions about graduate school consider the following:



Ask yourself the following:

  1. Am I sure of my career direction and goals?
  2. Do I have a clear idea of what I want to study?
  3. Do I like what I would be studying or have a passion for it?
  4. Is graduate school essential or would work experience be more beneficial in helping me mature, clarify my career goals, and give me practical experience?
  5. Am I considering graduate school for the right reasons? What's the market outlook? How did I perform during my undegraduate studies? Do I know what I can do with my degree?
  6. How will graduate school enhance my job prospects – if at all? What types of jobs are associated with this degree? Will it expand or narrow job options?
  7. How will I finance graduate school? Have I researched the cost and all the financing options such as graduate assistantships, loans, scholarships, part-time work?


  • Decide which program of study you’re really interested in.
  • Identify the schools that offer that program of study. The Career Center, JW library, books and online resources can help.
  • Contact the schools you’re interested and request material about the school and the program of interest.
  • Investigate the program of interest, the faculty’s reputations, what graduates are doing, and where they are.
  • Evaluate the departments, not just the school, and see how the program of interest fits into your career goals.
  • Speak with the admissions officers and graduate advisors. Ask questions and don’t rely exclusively on school rankings since top programs are not always located in top ranked schools.
  • Visit the schools of interest. Speak with current students and faculty about the curriculum and the program. Ask questions about the workload, faculty relationships, research interests and publications, demographic make-up and class size, and internship or practicum opportunities.
  • Speak with alumni about their experiences in the program, their work, and their training.
  • Take into account the location, family, personal interests, weather, and professional activities may affect you during your studies.
  • Look into the services or programs that are available at the school and in the community to help you obtain employment after graduation.


Entrance exams are sometimes offered by the school you’re attending. If they aren’t, you will need to go through your state office or ask the faculty for information on where the exams are provided. Andrews University offers many of these tests on campus. Check with the Counseling and Testing Center for exact dates and times.

1. Plan when you will take your exam(s)
a. LSAT – July or October of the senior year
b. MCAT - April of the junior year
c. GRE – check with the individual programs for requirements

d. GMAT – during the senior year or one to two years of working

2. Some tests can be retaken. Consider:
a. Whether all scores are reported
b. Whether best scores are considered or if they’re averaged

c. Retake options. If retakes are not permitted then early preparation for the exam is even more essential.

3. Check to see whether the test scores are valid for three or five years so you can determine when you need to apply.

4. Test registration bulletins are available at the Counseling and Testing Center in Bell Hall, from your academic advisor, and online.


Recommendations are important components of graduate school applications. Remember to:

  1. Select your advocates carefully. Choose individuals who know you and your work well and with whom you spend time with. These are the people who will be able to describe you the most effectively.
  2. Consider professors, teaching assistants, administrators or employers who can write well. Strong letters may help to strengthen weaker sections of your application.
  3. The letters should reflect what sets you apart from the rest, what gives you the potential to succeed, and should contain specific examples of your accomplishments.
  4. Ask your professors if they can write letters that will positively and enthusiastically present your strengths and accomplishments. If not, ask someone else. You need to have complete confidence in your recommenders.
  5. Create a file containing a current resume, a list of your goals and accomplishments, a copy of your personal statement, and an unofficial transcript. Give this file to your recommenders. It will help them write stronger letters by incorporating more concrete details into their letters.
  6. Some schools conduct admissions interviews. These are similar to job interviews and you should be as thoroughly prepared and practiced as you would for a job interview. This interview could increase your chances of being accepted.
    • Think about the questions you are likely to be asked and practice verbalizing your answers.
    • Think about what you want the interviewers to know about you so that you can present this information when the opportunity is given.
    • Dress professionally.
  7. In certain fields, you will have to submit a portfolio of your work or schedule an audition.


It is important to gather all applications and supporting materials. Remember that each application may be different in their requirements so be sure to read all applications very carefully.

1. Know application deadlines and apply early. Some schools have rolling admissions and make their decisions based on the date received and the order of receipt.

2. Create a timeline to track deadlines. Prioritize applications based on deadlines and apply accordingly. Keep a folder to hold all materials so that they are easily accessible.

3. Most applications require the following: an application form, a personal statement, official copies of transcripts from all schools attended, letters of recommendation, resumes, financial aid applications, an application fee, and forwarding of test scores. Download the Personal Statements guide here

5. Do not apply to program you would not attend.


You need to consider how you’re going to pay for graduate school. There are many resources available to you, but it takes time and research to find to find what suits you best.

1. Contact the graduate school office, the academic department, and the financial aid office to get financial aid information. Do this for each school you are considering attending.

2. Find out if there are grants and fellowships available through professional organizations, employers, the federal government, and the graduate school.

3. Work possibilities may be found through teaching, research or administrative assistantships, campus employment, or within the local community.

4. Loans may be obtained from federal, state, institutional, or personal sources.

5. Pay special attention to financial aid application deadlines. These usually need to be submitted before your graduate school application deadline.


Have you considered what you would do if you didn’t get admitted to graduate school?

  1. Take a careful look at your goals and plans. Is it possible that there are other career options that would be satisfying to you?
  2. Take a careful look at the schools you applied to. Ask for reconsideration or reapply. You may want to look into other schools.
  3. Prepare to begin searching for employment. You may need a year of work experience or time to save money before reapplying.


Use the following websites to learn about graduate schools: 


Junior Year – First Semester                   

1. Research areas of interest, institutions and programs.
2. Talk with advisers about application requirements.
3. Register/prepare for appropriate graduate admission tests.
4. Investigate national scholarships.

5. Begin obtaining letters of recommendation.

Junior Year – Second Semester

1. Take required graduate admission tests.
2. Write for application materials.
3. Visit institutions of interest.
4. Write your application essay.
5. Check on application deadlines and rolling admissions policies.

6. For medical, dental, osteopathy, podiatry, or law school, you may need to register for the national application or data assembly service most programs use.

Senior Year – First Semester

1. Obtain letters of recommendation if you haven’t already.
2. Take graduate admissions tests if you haven’t already.

3. Submit completed applications.

Senior Year – Second Semester

1. Register for the Graduate and Professional School Financial Aid Service (GAPSFAS), if required.
2. Check with all institutions before the deadline to make sure your file is complete.
3. Send a deposit to your institution of choice.
4. Notify other colleges and universities that accepted you of your decision so that they can admit students on their waiting list.

5. Send thank-you notes to people who wrote your recommendation letters, informing them of your success.

Download the Grad School Assistance Guide

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and HE Will make your paths straight!" Proverbs 3:5-6