Explore graduate school options and locate resources for researching programs, preparing for entrance exams, and applying to schools.
Whatever your motivations and interests in continuing your education, the Career Development Center can connect you to a variety of resources to help you reach your goals. Includes information on essay writing, entrance exams, and other relevant resources.
Investigate the financial aid options available for graduate education. The types and amounts of funding available are often based on financial need and/or merit.
Applying to Grad School (PDF)
Once a student decides to apply to graduate school, the selection of schools becomes an important decision. Prospective graduate students need to develop objective and subjective criteria for good decision-making. The following section suggests criteria and some resources to help gather information.
Choosing The Right Grad School – Objective and Subjective Criteria
A list of criteria can be very useful for evaluating graduate school programs. The following factors are adapted from Howard Figler’s PATH: A Career Workbook for Liberal Arts Students. Additional academic, geographical, and personal factors can be added.
- Make a list of desirable traits including the following criteria:
- Determine the fit of the program with your career goals
- Availability of practical/professional experience
- Review success of graduates in your intended discipline
- Program purpose and goals
- Success of graduates in obtaining professional positions
- Size of classes
- Faculty: student ratio
- Faculty reputation
- Diversity of faculty
- Diversity of student body
- Availability of Financial Aid
- Prioritize your list of desirable traits
- Keep in mind your personal specific criteria
- Contact programs that you are interested in
- If possible, visit schools to get a better idea of the campus environment, faculty, and program
- Meet with Graduate Admissions Officers
- Ask for permission to audit a class
- Request to speak with a current student in the program
- Talk to alumni in your intended career field
- Is the school a good fit?
Grad School Timeline
Each school and program has its own requirements and deadlines for applications. It is the student’s responsibility to fulfill the requirements on time! This is a basic framework for setting up your particular schedule – use your faculty and career advisors to assist you. This timeline will not be useful if you are planning to go into medical school immediately in the fall following your graduation for Lewis & Clark College – please refer to the health care resource page for this information.
Junior Year: Spring-Summer
- Talk to faculty, advisors, counselors, and others to discuss graduate programs
- Request and read graduate program information
- Determine admission and test requirements, application deadlines, test dates, etc.
Senior Year: September-October
- Take required graduate admission test(s). Find practice tests here.
- Write draft of personal statement
- Request letters of recommendation
- Research financial aid options
Senior Year: November-December
- Order official transcripts from the Registrar
- Finalize personal statement according to program requirements
- Mail applications in early so you will have time to attend to missing information
- Contact programs to make sure your application is complete
Senior Year: January-April
- Contact schools about the possibility of visiting
- Discuss acceptances and rejections
Sending in completed application forms does not signify the end of the graduate school application process. To ensure consideration of their applications, students must complete the follow-up steps:
- Contact each graduate program to make sure they have received completed application materials.
- Contact appropriate sources regarding missing materials and communicate with the graduate program.
- Continue to research programs by speaking with students and faculty and reading literature
- Determine which program(s) match your interests/needs best and rank them in terms of admissions preferences.
Acceptance or Rejection
Once the application process is completed, graduate programs make admissions offers. Although acceptance by more than one school will provide choices, it can potentially contribute to more stress and anxiety. During the waiting period, keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Remember that a prospective student must also decide whether to accept or reject an offer for admission.
- Think about how to respond to possible acceptance/rejection scenarios.
Although ranking one’s preferences for graduate programs is helpful, the acceptance/rejection process can be complex. For example, a student who has not heard from his or her first choice for a graduate program may receive an offer from their second choice. In this situation, the student could choose one of several options: a) immediately reject the offer; b) immediately accept the offer rather than wait to hear from their first choice; or c) ask for time to make a decision and contact their first choice to see if they are still being considered or wait to hear from the program.
Seek support (e.g., parents, friends, faculty, and the Career Development Center) during the application process.
Need help?Schedule an appointment with a career counselor.
Think about alternative plans in case of rejection. Students may want to seek support from friends, faculty, family or perhaps counselors if they are very disappointed. Some students will feel relief, realizing that they actually didn’t want to go to graduate school. The next step is to consider other options, whether or not a plan was in place before receiving the rejection letter.