Thinking about Graduate School? Here's how to decide if it is the right fit for you!
Higher than a bachelor’s degree, an advanced or graduate degree is generally a master’s or doctorate degree. Usually a graduate school degree is researched based, especially PhD programs. A professional degree centers on curriculum and experiences that lead to better preparation for a career. An advanced degree is required for certain professions such as allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) doctors and attorneys (JD), which in the US are required doctoral degrees for the respective professions. Popular professional master’s degrees including the MBA (business), MSN (nursing), and MS in Engineering. There are innumerable academic master’s and doctoral degrees covering at least as many areas as undergraduate degrees. Typically with a full-time schedule, a master’s degree will take one or two years to complete and a doctorate degree will take three to five years (usually more with a research and a dissertation; seven years would not be unusual for completion of an academic PhD). Gradschools.com is a good place to start a search of thousands of graduate degree options.
Ideal reasons to attend graduate school include:
If you’re unsure, answering questions like these can help in evaluating your decision to pursue an advanced degree:
Keep in mind that thorough research and information gathering for your area of interest is critical. The checklist and timeline that follow provide general information and guidelines. Although successful applicants prepare and apply for advanced degrees in diverse ways and within varying timeframes, it is best to begin as early as possible to build a strong academic foundation, a competitive undergraduate GPA, and positive, significant working and academic relationships. You will need a competitive GPA and usually two to three letters of recommendation to successfully apply to graduate and professional degree programs. Many programs require a standardized exam such as the MCAT, GMAT, LSAT or GRE. You may see required GPAs listed at 3.0; however, most competitive GPAs are higher especially for doctorate degree programs and highly ranked universities. Some prep programs in medicine and law have competitive GPAs in the 3.25 to 3.5 range.
The following are general recommendations of activities to engage in throughout your time at UCLA in order to gain exposure to career options and develop relevant skills and experiences to make yourself competitive for admissions. These are not mandatory in order to be admitted and a candidate may be successful without completing a number of these steps.
Additional Law-School specific items:
Additional Health or Medical School specific items:
The following are general recommendations to use as a guide when planning for graduate or professional school. Most deadlines for Fall admission are between December and March of your senior year if you do not plan to take a gap year. Some schools follow a different schedule, so be sure to check with your prospective programs for specific deadlines and adhere to them carefully.
Additional Law School specific items:
Graduate programs may ask you to submit a Personal Statement, a Statement of Purpose, or both. Both documents are opportunities to set yourself apart and demonstrate what makes you unique from other applicants who may have similar grades, scores, and extracurricular experiences. There are some key differences between a Personal Statement and a Statement of Purpose.
Tips for the Writing Process:
* Remember that the personal statement should be personal. Use this opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Who are you? How is your story different from others?
* Avoid repeating information they already know from your application or resume.
* Start several months before the application is due so you have time to write multiple drafts.
* Have multiple people read it and offer their feedback. Since there is no objective “right” or “wrong” way to write a statement, it will beneficial to hear the perspectives of various people.
Professors who have taught you, supervisors, advisors who know you very well, person in the profession whom you have shadowed or with whom you’ve worked. Letters of recommendation should not be written by relatives, friends, roommates, or anyone who does not know you well enough to write a strong and personalized letter.
If you are not using an electronic filing service and are requesting the author to mail the letters directly to the schools, provide stamped, addressed envelopes.
For more information regarding Graduate and Professional School, download Chapter 4 of the UCLA Career Guide.