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 of what graduate school involves. Such as whether I should go, how do I find the best program, what about entrance requirements and exams, are recommendations important, submitting applications, how am I going to pay for graduate school, and what if I 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 you mature, clarify your career goals, and give you practical experience?
  5. Are you considering graduate school for the right reasons? Is the job market tight? Did you procrastinate throughout your undergraduate? Do you know what you can do with your degree?
  6. How will graduate school enhance your job prospects – if at all? Do you know what type of jobs are associated with this degree? Will it expand or narrow job options?
  7. How will you finance graduate school? Have you 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 Development Center, JW library, and books and searching online can help.
  • Contact the schools you’re interested and request printed materials 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 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 how they felt regarding the program, their work, and their training.
  • Take into account the location. Family, personal interests, weather, and professional activities will affect you.
  • Look into what services or programs our 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 need to go through your state office or ask the faculty for information on where the exams are given. Andrews University offers many of these tests here on campus. Check with the Counseling and Testing Center for exact dates and times.

1. Plan when the best time would be for you to take the exam
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. Check to see whether all scores are reported
b. Check to see whether best scores are considered or if they’re averaged

c. If it’s not advisable to retake the test then early preparation for the exam is 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.


Obtaining recommendations is one of the most important pieces to be accepted into graduate school. 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 will balance out weaker portions 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 because confidential letters carry more weight than non-confidential ones.
  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.
  8. Refer to the Career Development Guides to help you with your recommendations. 


It is important to gather all applications and materials. Remember that each application may be different in their requirements so make sure you read all applications very carefully so you don’t miss anything that could jeopardize your possible admission into a particular school.

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.

4. Your personal statement is a letter describing your goals and reasons for applying to the program. This statement should be

a. Unique and persuasive but not to idealistic or perfect. It is usually no more than two double-spaced pages.
b. Reflect your writing abilities.
c. Reveal the clarity, the focus, and the depth of your thinking. Such as
  i. Your motivation and commitment to the field of study.
ii. Expectations with regard to the program and career opportunities.
iii. Major areas of interest.
iv. Research or work experience.
v. Educational background.
vi. Immediate and long-term goals.
vii. Reasons for deciding to pursue graduate education in a particular field and at a particular institution.
viii. Maturity and personal uniqueness.

d. If there is information in your application that might reflect badly on you, such as poor grades or a low admission test score, it is better not to deal with it in your statement.

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. Sometimes 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.


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. Send in 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.


"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