Perhaps you'd like to acquire the specialized knowledge in a specific area of study or you're seeking advancement within your career field — or perhaps your desired occupation requires additional education beyond a bachelor's degree. There are many reasons to pursue an advanced degree!
Post Baccalaureate Options
- Includes dental, medical, veterinarian, law, paralegal and business schools.
- Many professional schools do not require applicants to have a specific undergraduate degree; however, specific undergraduate courses may provide a beneficial background.
- Professional schools often heavily evaluate applicants according to responses to application essay questions and/or a personal statement due to an interest in responses to ethical/philosophical and scenario questions.
- Professional schools are interested in an applicant’s extracurricular activities such as campus involvement, leadership, work experience, volunteer work, and test scores such as LSAT or MCAT.
- More students go directly into professional schools immediately following undergraduate education than graduate school.
- Graduate school constitutes an advanced program of study focused on a particular academic discipline or a specific profession.
- Graduate schools are interested in an applicant’s extracurricular activities such as campus involvement, leadership, work experience, volunteer work and results of standardized tests such as GRE or GMAT.
- Graduate degrees may or may not increase salaries depending on the academic area.
- Many students take time off between undergraduate and graduate studies in order to acquire work experience and further confirm their specialty area of choice.
If you're interesting in earning a graduate degree, visit the Graduate Admissions page to learn about opportunities right here at SFA!
Immediate entry vs. delayed entry
Some undergraduate students struggle when faced with the decision to enter straight into graduate school or obtain real work experience before pursuing a graduate degree. There is no set answer.
Consider the following questions
- Are you relatively sure of your career goals?
- Or, is it a possibility that you could change your mind after gaining practical experience in the “world of work?”
- Do you have ambiguous career goals?
- Would some time in the “world of work” help clarify those hazy career goals?
- How much will your job and salary prospects be enhanced by a graduate degree? Investigate, it varies by industry!
- Is a graduate degree mandatory for your chosen career?
- What are the direct and indirect costs of graduate school?
- Is there a possibility a future employer might pay for you to attend graduate school?
- How strong are your test scores and GPA?
- Would work experience enhance your application by offsetting subpar grades or test scores?
- Would you have difficulty readjusting to student life after a break?
- Do you need a break from education before beginning graduate school?
Ready to apply?
There is a lot of criteria to consider when choosing a school beyond whether or not they offer your designed program of study. There are also considerations concerning the faculty, community, reputation, facilities,admissions and cost.
When it's time to assemble your application package keep in mind that admission requirements will differ between schools. Stay organized keeping in mind a few standard items required for submission:
Complete the application form clearly and truthfully. Be sure to spell out your full, legal name as it should match your transcript from past institution(s).
Personal essay or statement of purpose
Confused on how to write your essay? Be sure to address any questions specifically posed in the application. Other talking points may include motivation for graduate study, strengths, weaknesses, greatest achievements, and solutions to hypothetical problems.
Essay requirements vary between institutions. Some schools request only a few paragraphs, while others require several separate, lengthy essays. Whatever the case, your objective should remain constant: provide a clear, focused essay that illustrates you have a distinct sense of your career goals and enthusiasm for the field of study you have chosen. Before you write, take a look at these other helpful pointers:
- Sense what the reader might be looking for (refer to application directions for clues)
- Think about the possible criteria admissions committees may use to base their evaluations:
- Expectations of you in the program and in your career.
- Your writing ability and depth of thinking.
- Your major areas of interest.
- Your educational background.
- Your immediate and long term goals.
- Your reasons for pursing this particular graduate program at this particular institution.
- Your maturity level.
- What you bring to the program in terms of personal uniqueness.
Neatness counts! Your essay should be typed and free of spelling and grammatical errors with a positive message. Read our Personal Statement 101 document for more helpful tips.
Remember you can submit your professional documents for critique.
While fees vary among institutions, most application fees are non-refundable and range from $25-$100. Most schools have an application fee waiver for students with financial need. If you would like, call the admissions office and ask how to apply for a waiver.
Separate financial aid application
Note that an application for financial aid may come with your general application packet or you may have to call and request a separate financial aid application from the institution’s financial aid office. Be sure to file all documents on time!
Contact the registrar’s office at each college/university you attended and request they send your transcript directly to the admissions office of the schools to which you are applying.
Letters of recommendation
Most all institutions request three to five letters of recommendation. Select people who are qualified to assess your academic or work performance. Try your best not to ask people who only know you in a social setting (i.e. family and friends); while they may have pleasant things to say about you, admissions committees don’t place value on those kinds of recommendations. Be sure to give your recommenders ample time to write and submit these letters.
Standardized test scores
Most institutions require you take one of the standardized admissions exams before they decide to accept you into the program. Common standardized tests include GRE (Graduate Record Exam), GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), MAT (Miller Analogy Test), MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), and LSAT (Law School Admission Test). Typically, each graduate program will specify which test you need to take and the score you need to obtain to be competitive for their program.
Some schools require an interview as part of the application process. A face-to-face interview is the perfect opportunity to showcase your qualifications, personal aspirations, and why you think you’re an ideal fit for the program. Be prepared to sell yourself! Consider a mock interview with the Center for Career and Professional Development first for practice. Also, be sure to send a thank you note!
Apply as early as possible and follow our suggested timeline for a smooth process towards starting your graduate program.