CHECK YOUR READINESS FOR A MASTERS OR DOCTORAL PROGRAM
Please review these YES/NO statements:
- I’ve researched programs of interest at various graduate schools.
- I want to pursue graduate school because of a desire to learn more in my field, participate in research and be inspired by faculty.
- Graduate school is the next step in meeting my career goals.
- My cumulative GPA is 3.0 or above. (Must have 3.0 for consideration)
- I’ve prepared well for the GRE and feel confident that I’m ready for the challenge.
- My writing skills are strong.
- My instructors at Central tell me I’m graduate school material.
- I’m applying to graduate school because I don’t know what to do next.
- Attending grad school will let me avoid getting a job awhile longer.
- The economy is terrible and I don’t want to move home.
- Even though I’ve left the application until the last minute, Career Services will help me pull it together.
- My parents said I should try graduate school.
- People will think highly of me if I have a graduate degree.
If you’ve answered YES to the first seven statements, chances are you have good reasons for applying to graduate school at this time. On the other hand, if you answered YES to the last six statements, you may want to reconsider this decision now. Why? The graduate school process takes evaluation of self, commitment to planning, time, financial resources and energy.
Career Services offers the following suggestions to help you in the process.
I. RESEARCH. COLLECT INFORMATION. EXPLORE.
- Talk with your professors at Central. Meet with people studying in that field or working in the industry. Check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook or visit www.bls.gov/oco
- A good source for seeking information on prospective schools is the Peterson’s Guide to Graduate and Professional Schools. Visit their website at www.petersons.com
- Identify prospective schools and seek information on their programs.
What percent of applicants are accepted each year? What percent of people graduate from the program? How long does it take to complete the degree? Is a GRE required? Not all institutions require it. If not, is a timed writing sample required in lieu of a GRE? Is a personal interview required? If so, Career Services can help prepare you with a mock interview. Is a thesis, orals, and/or dissertation required? How are students advised? What is the timeline for applying?
II. EVALUATE THE VARIOUS GRADUATE PROGRAMS
- Department: Certain institutions are known for certain departments. Check out the U.S. News Best Graduate Schools and research online.
- Faculty: Research the reputation and areas of specialization of the faculty.
- Facilities: Find out about the libraries, laboratories, and research facilities. What is the depth of the library collection in your particular field of interest?
- Size: There are advantages and disadvantages to both small and large universities.
- Placement: Where do graduates go after completing the program?
- Degree Requirements: List all requirements such as residency, unit requirements, language requirements, examinations, candidacy, dissertation, or thesis.
III. PREPARING FOR THE ADMISSIONS PROCESS and THE GRE.
- Complete your bachelor’s degree
- Aim for a minimum of 3.0 GPA for masters programs and 3.5 for doctoral programs—Some schools average your last 2 years of school or the courses in your field of concentration.
- 2-4 Letters of Recommendation— Who knows your academic work best and is willing to support you in the application process? Choose individuals who know you academically and/or professionally and will give you the best recommendation. At least one reference should be a professor. Before asking for a recommendation, meet with your references to discuss your career goals and inform them about the program(s).
Recommendations or Letters of Support usually address the following:
- How long have you known the applicant, and in what capacity (academic, professional, personal, etc.)?
- What is his/her potential for success in a graduate degree program?
- [Public Law 93-380, The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, requires that letters of recommendation on behalf of applicants for admission to graduate study be placed in open files available for review by the student unless the student waives his/her right to review the recommendation.]
- The GRE—
- The GRE is given at the CWU Testing Center most Mondays, either at 8 a.m. or Noon. Duration of the exam is 4 hours. The GRE is computer based. Cost is $150. A photo ID is required on the day you take the exam. For questions, call CWU’s testing center, 509 963 1847.
- A FEE REDUCTION for the GRE is possible. Eligible students can go to Financial Aid to ask for a GRE form and voucher for 50% off. The student sends the voucher to GRE where it is processed and returned. The student then mails the voucher back with their 50% payment. This process can take up to a month.
- Complete GRE information is found at www.ets.org or www.gre.org Exams are scheduled online through ETS Prometric. Once your exam is scheduled, you will receive a confirmation listing site number and address, appointment date, time, duration and cost.
- Format: The GRE consists of two timed writing samples, a 45-minute Issue Task, and a 30-minute Argument Task. You want these to be the best possible example of your writing that you can produce under testing circumstances. Two Verbal sections of 30 minutes each cover Antonyms, Analogies, Sentence Completions, and Reading Comprehension. The two 30-minute Quantitative sections measure your understanding of Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Data Analysis.
- Study Guides: It is wise to get a copy of the GRE General Test booklet (Online or hard copy) or LSAT, GMAT or MCAT booklets, depending on what your program requires. For those who need to polish up their verbal skills, an excellent reference is “Word Smart for the GRE” published by The Princeton Review.
- Tutors: If you know you have weaknesses in writing, math or both, consider getting a tutor in advance. The Math department has a list of on-campus tutors willing to help you.
- Help! I took the GRE and scored badly. What do I do now? It is possible to retake the GRE at a cost of $150. If you are disciplined with your study, you may be able to raise your scores significantly. Most universities expect a total score in the 900 range and above. Please be aware that at the end of the GRE, once you accept the scores online, they will go directly to your institutions of choice.
- STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
- Requirements on Statement of Purpose and/or Background Statement or Personal History vary according to institution. You will be evaluated on your writing skills. Involve Career Services and other professionals in proof-reading your work.
- Why are you most qualified to be in that particular program? Composing the Statement of Purpose requires thoroughness and attention to detail. Consider this as a qualitative way to demonstrate your eligibility--a professional writing sample that your committee will evaluate. This would be equivalent to a perfect score on a writing assignment. Take time to make this writing piece your best work.
- Suggestions to help you construct the Statement of Purpose:
- What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story, especially your ability to surmount hurdles?
- What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
- When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
- How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
- If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
- What are your career goals?
- Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
- Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
- What personal characteristics (for example. integrity. compassion. persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
- What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
- Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field, than other applicants?
- What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
- Headings: Education, Honors/Awards, Skills, Leadership, Work History, Research, Publications, Volunteer Work and other areas according to experience and education. CV’s are more extensive and research-oriented. Please discuss with a counselor.
- Proofread: If you cannot assure yourself that your resume is approaching “perfect”, make it a point to come into Career Services, Barge 202 and 204M. Meet with a professional Career Counselor before you submit your resume as part of your application.
VI. OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPTS
- Requirement for admission to graduate school. Official transcripts are sealed and confidential. They can be obtained from CWU’s Registrar Services who can send them directly to your institutions of choice for a small fee. Never attempt this at the last minute, especially if you have attended numerous colleges or universities.
- Contact each school you’ve attended.
VII. FINANCING YOUR EDUCATION
- Fellowships: Given to students with the expectation that they will maintain and achieve good standing.
- Loans: Check with the financial aid office of the schools to which you are applying about loan possibilities. Loans must be repaid.
- Assistantships: You receive a stipend for which you perform services related to your field.
- Grants: Like fellowships, these are gifts to graduate students that do not have to be repaid. They are often awarded based upon need and/or special qualifications.
- Work Study: This type of financial aid assists graduate students by providing job opportunities within the institution or in a public or non-profit agency for up to 20 hours per week.
Look for Career Services October workshop, Getting Into Graduate School, if you are planning to apply to programs fall quarter.
If you have other questions about the graduate school procedure or need assistance with resume, statement of purpose, interviewing skills and/or documenting research, please call Career Services at 509 963-2404 or 509 963-1921 for an appointment.
Best of Luck!