Going to graduate school is a big decision that requires research and self-reflection.
Graduate degrees are a pre-requisite for certain career paths such as law, medicine,
and mental health counseling. Other times, a graduate degree or certificate is optional
and often leads to promotion in your chosen industry. Attending graduate school should
be a purposeful decision and not a way to postpone making career decisions. Develop
a clear understanding of the path you are pursuing and how graduate school fits into
it. The Career Development Center can help you with this process. For tailored advice,
schedule an appointment with one of our Career Counselors.
Questions to consider: What is the purpose of the program? What are job placement
and student advisement services like? What is the student/faculty ratio? Are there
internships, assistantships and other experiential education opportunities available?
A graduate department's reputation rests heavily on the reputation of the faculty.
In some applications, you will be asked about which faculty members you would want
to work with and why. Familiarize yourself with publications describing current research
in your discipline. Find articles in professional journals and discover where the
authors teach. Review published graduate program ratings.
As an applicant to graduate school, you should research the role that accreditation
plays in your field. The role of accreditation varies from one discipline to another.
In certain fields, it is a requirement to have graduated from an accredited program
in order to be eligible for a license to practice. The federal government will sometimes
make graduation from an accredited program a hiring requirement. In other fields,
accreditation is not as important and there may be some excellent programs that are
Other opportunities to consider include Graduate Assistantships, Teaching and Research
Assistantships, Grants and Fellowships, and Scholarships. Generally, you can expect
to work on campus in some capacity for an assistantship, teaching, or research position
for a set number of hours per week. Grants do not require a service component, and
fellowships are not as common and are highly selective. No matter what options you
pursue to fund your graduate education, there will be application processes. You can
work with graduate admissions or the academic department at your institution to find
out when opportunities become available and how to apply.
Research grants in advance, particularly in the science, technology, and mathematics
fields, as they might strengthen your admissions chances for certain programs (e.g.,
NSF in the sciences). At WCU, the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs provides support for identifying research grants and funding.
A visit to a good library and a conversation with a Reference Librarian should yield
you some strategies for researching scholarships and grants.
There are many steps to the application process and each school will have its own
list of criteria and required items. A perfect place to start is to get organized
so that you can ensure you are completing all items in a timely manner and meeting
the requirements for each different program.
As part of the selection process, admission committees require official transcripts.
Your GPA is one of many criteria evaluated. The content of your courses, your course
load and major, your recommendations, as well as the reputation of your undergraduate
institution are also important.
Sometimes called Personal Statement or Letter of Intent. You will be required to submit
a piece of writing tailored to each university’s program. Take adequate time when
writing, and get feedback from mentors, the Writing Center, and the Career Development
Dos and Don’ts of personal statements
Adhere to any word or page limits
Write a term paper or a full autobiography
Stick to the prompt(s)
Just summarize your resume
Use our office and the Writing Center to get feedback
Exaggerate your experiences or accomplishments
Proofread to make sure you’re using correct spelling and grammar
No matter if you are applying to graduate school upon completion of your undergraduate
degree or later in your career, most schools will request at least 2 letters of recommendations.
Provide plenty of time for your recommendations to be submitted. Remember that most
admission deadlines are at the same time of year and you will likely not be the only
person asking a professor (or supervisor) for a letter of recommendation. At a minimum,
you should provide the recommender with 1 month of lead time, although more is always
When requesting a letter of recommendation, you always want to ask the prospective
recommender if they feel as though they can speak positively about your work. If they
cannot speak positively, find someone else to write your letter of recommendation.
After asking this question, you should set up a meeting with the person who has agreed
to write your letter of recommendation, or provide the following items through email:
Current resume or curriculum vitae (CV), Personal Statement (if you have written it
already), and Information on schools to which you are applying
What is a CV? A curriculum vitae (CV) is similar to a resume, although it is longer
and more comprehensive. Not everyone needs to have one. It is most commonly used in
academia, research, education, and fine arts settings. A CV provides greater detail
of ALL of an individual’s experiences, including emphasis on publications, presentations,
courses taught, research interests, professional development, committee participation,
and so forth. Because CVs can vary in length from 5 to 30 or more pages, rather than looking at
specific samples, we suggest you look at the following comprehensive, expert resources
on CV development. Our staff can assist you during appointments with CV development.
Graduate admissions interviews are formal conversations with representatives from
the school that allow you to share your passion for the field, the story of your accomplishments,
and your enthusiasm for the school. Not all schools require an interview, but if they
do, you should prepare for it as though it were a job interview. You can explore some
best practices for preparing and how to take advantage of the opportunity here:
You may also schedule a mock admissions interview with one of our career counselors.