Graduate school involves a significant commitment of time, money and effort, making it a big decision that takes careful planning. It is important to spend time considering your goals and career plans.
Considering Grad School? Why Should You Go?
Do you have defined career goals? Is graduate school required to meat these goals?
Have you completed an internship or worked in your chosen field?
Does having a graduate degree affect employability in the occupation you desire?
Have you met all of the prerequisites required (GPA, major, courses taken, etc)? Are you ready for another 1-5 years of school, homework, deadlines, etc.?
Can you afford the academic and personal expenses of another degree?
Types of Tests
Applying to graduate, law, medical, or business school? You may need to take a standard examination. Most students will take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Check with the program you are applying to in order to determine if taking the GRE is required.
Standardized tests level the playing field for students from a wide range of colleges and universities in terms of comparing their academic performance. A standardized exam permits two applicants’ abilities to be compared fairly and is also the basis for awarding fellowships and other forms of financial assistance.
If you have a low GPA, exceptional standardized test scores can be a strong contributor to you being accepted. Be sure to prepare for graduate tests before taking one.
Schools generally require a graduate admission test, which you should plan to take approximately one year before your anticipated matriculation date. The tests vary by type of graduate study. Contact the school and department where you are applying to confirm whether or not you need to take one of the following graduate school exams.
The Most Common Exams
GRE — GRADUATE RECORD EXAM
The GRE is often required for graduate programs in the arts and sciences. The general GRE includes both a general test and a subject test. The general GRE, measures analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. The subject test assesses the qualifications of applicants in specific fields of study (biochemistry, biology, chemistry, psychology, computer science, literature in english, mathematics, and physics).
LSAT — LAW SCHOOL ADMISSION TEST
The American Bar Association requires a half-day standardized test for admission to any of the 196 law schools that are members of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC or Law Services). The test measures reading and verbal reasoning skills. Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December, nine months before law school begins. The Law School Admissions Council recommends taking the test earlier—15 months to a year before law school begins.
GMAT — GRADUATE MANAGEMENT ADMISSION TEST
The GMAT can be required for admission into an MBA or business program. The GMAT is a standardized test used by 1,500 graduate management programs around the world to assess the qualifications of applicants. Scores are used to predict your academic performance in the first year of graduate management school.
MCAT — MEDICAL COLLEGE ADMISSION TEST
The MCAT tests a wide range of skills, including problem solving, critical thinking, and writing. It also tests the aspiring students’ knowledge of science concepts and principles that are prerequisites to the study of medicine. Scores are given in verbal reasoning, physical sciences, a writing sample, and biological sciences. Almost all U.S. medical schools require an MCAT before admission.
OTHER GRADUATE ADMISSIONS TESTS
MAT — Miller Analogies Test: Required for some Psychology programs.
OAT — Optometry Assessment Test
DCAT— Dental College Admission Test
PCAT — Pharmacy College Admission Test
VCAT — Veterinary College Admissions Test
TOEFL — Test of English as a Foreign Language: Often required of foreign students to attend school in an English-speaking country.
Free Practice Tests
Kaplan Test Preparation is offering online practice tests will be available for free all year. Kaplan also has a fun trivia game set up for students this semester with great prizes like Gift Cards, Trip Vouchers, an Apple Watch and, of course, a free Kaplan course! The trivia questions are not grad school or test specific. This game will be available until November.
Official transcripts of your undergraduate work must also be sent to the graduate schools you are applying to. Complete Brockport’s Online Transcript Request Form. You will need to contact any other schools you have attended directly to request a transcript.
Admissions committees will review your transcripts with regard to the rigor and types of courses, the course load per semester, and your grades. The reputation of the undergraduate school will also be taken into consideration.
Graduate schools often require a “personal statement,” a “statement of purpose,” or a “letter of intent” as part of the application process. In short, a personal statement will demonstrate how you will fit into the graduate program. The main task in writing your statement is to convey passion, excitement, and individuality!
There are two types of personal statements:
- A general, unstructured, free statement
- A statement that requires specific information.
So, either they will give you specific questions and you will follow their guidelines or they will leave the topic open to you.
Write a focused essay, about four paragraphs covering the basics:
- Introduce the reader to you (Who Am I?) This is the most difficult part to write. Start with the ending paragraph—that will potentially be one of the easier ones to write.
- Let the reader know how you arrived at your choice of the specialty (college, field of study, career).
- Confirm why you think this choice is right for you. Include your academic record, accomplishments, and activities (work or internship experiences, research, awards and honors, clubs, etc.) in order to back up your decision.
- Inform the reader what you see as your long-term goals or how you see yourself in this specialty.
Specific questions that you can reflect on as you write:
- What unusual circumstances, challenges, hardships, or regrets have taught you something important about yourself? How did you overcome or respond to them?
- What ideas, books, theories, or movements have made a profound impact on you?
- To what extent do your current commitments reflect your most strongly-held values?
- Where or how do you seem to waste the most time?
- Under what conditions do you do your best, most creative work?
- To what extent are you a typical product of your generation and/or culture? How might you deviate from the norm?
Your goal is to grab the readers’ interest by writing a well-crafted statement that is both original in its presentation and grammatically correct. Brainstorm the experiences and dreams you wish to share then examine them for a helpful way of making sense of it all.
Through this process you will find your story, and if you share it honestly, you will have written a meaningful personal statement.
Tips for Your Personal Statement
- Always tailor your personal statement to the program you are applying to and ensure it is free of grammatical errors.
- Give yourself plenty of time to write and revise your personal statement.
- Start your essay with an attention grabbing lead (e.g. anecdote, question, engaging description of a scene).
- Be clear, focused, and organized. Make sure your personal statement follows a logical structure and use paragraph breaks to encourage reading.
- Use your own words rather than rely on quotes; your own thoughts are more powerful.
- Be careful with humor and clichés.
- Use specific examples to illustrate your ideas (e.g. a concrete example of demonstrated motivation and leadership). Include how you have assigned meaning to your experiences and how you have grown from them.
- Your statement should be about one page long. Be aware of the requirements of the personal statement and be sure you do not exceed the maximum numbers of words
- PROOFREAD! Have others read your statement looking for correct grammar, flow, and interesting content.
We can help with this! Struggling to get started on your personal statement or want someone to review it once you’re done? Bring it in during CareerXpress (M–F from 12–3 pm) or make a Graduate School Appointment with a Career Counselor on Handshake.
Letters of Recommendation
THE GOLDEN RULES OF ASKING FOR LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
- Pick people who will know you well enough to write a detailed letter about you and will say wonderful things about you
- Be careful with who you select; these people could influence whether you are admitted to graduate school or not
- Make sure the people you pick are reliable and will get you the letter of recommendation before the deadline
- Ask for the letter three–six weeks in advance.
- Provide your résumé, transcript and personal statement to help them in writing the recommendation letter.
- Let the writers know if you would like them to mention something specific in the letter.
- Be sure to send a thank you letter!