Choosing to continue your education with a graduate degree is a big decision – but once you’ve made the choice to move on to even higher education, this process does not have to be daunting. It’s helpful to have a strategy in place to be organized, complete, and allow yourself the best chance for a positive outcome.

First, WHAT degree are you looking to attain? This may sound very basic or self-evident, but it isn’t always. There are two distinct medical degrees you can earn and still be a practicing physician; there are two distinct degrees you can earn and be a practicing doctoral-level therapist. Law schools offer two different degrees (though that is more of a difference without a distinction). Know the degree you are looking for. And while we are on the WHAT topic, WHAT credentials do you need to have be able to apply to the graduate schools of your choice? What standardized test, what resume material, what recommendations, etc.?

Now, onto the WHERE. WHERE should you specifically apply? Where are the programs that best suit what you want to learn. Even with law, for instance, there are subspecialties that some programs excel in, while others may hardly touch on. In PhD humanities programs, there may or may not be professors with a background to support (or not support) the research you intend to pursue. And, of course, the WHERE is often determined by WHERE you have a reasonable chance for admission.

Next, there is the HOW. HOW exactly do you apply to graduate school? Well, that actually depends on your WHAT. Each graduate degree has a different method for their applications; some degree programs use a “common application” so to speak, while others have you apply directly on the university’s website. If you are thinking a medical program or law, think “common app.”

Lastly, there is the WHEN. WHEN should your graduate applications be submitted? Or more to the point, WHEN should you start planning to apply to graduate school? Well, again, that actually depends on the type of graduate school you are planning on attending. Sometimes 15 months in advance of attending is sufficient, but other times 18-20 months is needed, especially for medical fields.

Graduate school can be an important component of a person’s path towards a career. Taking the time to carefully prepare for applications by having all of the necessary credentials in line and ensuring that everything is done properly and on-time, is vital towards giving the applicant the best chance for successful admission.

Marjorie Licht,

Director of College Advising