Graduate and Professional School Preparations
Considering Postgraduate Education
Graduate and professional school is a large investment that should require extensive consideration. Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering post graduate education:
- Do you have a clear idea of the career you want to pursue? Is a graduate degree a requirement for your career? Will it make employment easier?
- Who wants you to go to graduate school? Is it your interests pushing for the advanced degree - or are you responding to "outside" pressure from faculty, parents, friends?
- Will the time and money you spend on graduate school repay you for money and experience you would earn if you took a job immediately after graduation?
- If you put off graduate school for three years, are there things you will gain?
- "Do not choose grad school because you think you will not find a job"
If you decide that graduate or professional school is right for you, the Career Development Center can help you get there. Find out what programs and entrance exams work best for you and how you can best pursue them. Also be sure to get strong recommendations, write a good personal statement, and consider how to finance school before you apply.
You will need letters of recommendation to include with applications to graduate and professional schools. These letters should be written by professors and supervisors who know you well. It is in your best interest to find recommenders who actually know you and can provide the reader with insight as to who you are as a student, researcher, and person rather than to ask someone who gave you a good grade or knows you on a similarly surface level. You will likely need at least 3 recommendations, so think early and carefully about whom you will ask.
Tips for Getting Strong Recommendations
- Get to know your professors and/or supervisors. Take advantage of office hours. Ask questions. Participate in class.
- Ask each contact if he or she can give a positive recommendation.
- Provide each writer with a resume or list of academic and extracurricular involvements.
- Give ample time. Do not wait until the last minute.
Throughout this process you will be managing a lot of communication and confidential documents. Interfolio is an online credentials management tool to which you can subscribe. You will be able to store all letters, transcripts, etc. with 24/7 access. If you are planning to take time off between W&L and graduate or professional school this tool will allow you to gather your necessary documents while at W&L, maintain confidentiality, and then submit them at the appropriate time.
Your personal statement is a very important part of your graduate and / or professional school application. This should give the reader insight into who you are, why you are interested in a specific program, and what goals you hope to attain. You will need to write, get feedback, and revise, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time.
This list of links should be helpful as you get started:
NOTE: The Career Development Center works with Kaplan to offer programs throughout the academic year. Check our web site, visit our office, and watch Campus Notices to find out about personal statement workshops, free practice tests, and more!
Graduate school is an expensive endeavor. Fortunately, there are a variety of options to help finance your education. The best source for this information is the Financial Aid Office at each of the schools to which you are applying. The Financial Aid Office can help you explore options such as scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, student loans, and anything else that might be available. Be sure to apply for financial aid at every school.
In the meantime, here are some Web sites that will help you get started. Financial Aid Information and Opportunities:
- Council on Undergraduate Research
- Finaid.org - The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Look at the fellowship opportunities available to W&L seniors and recent graduates.