University of Wisconsin–Madison

Applying to Grad School

Are you considering applying to graduate school? Once you have determined your interest area in your field, research programs that offer the degree you are seeking. Be sure to consider what your end career goal is. For example, does completing a Master’s degree (typically two years) allow you to accomplish your goals? Are you more interested in working in academia or pursuing research full-time? A doctoral program (typically 4-7 years) might be a good fit for you. Also, research if a particular degree is required for licensure/certification in your chosen profession.

Researching Schools and Programs

  • Talk to professors and professionals in the field to see what might be a good fit for you based on your interests, goals, and academic background.
  • Peterson’s includes information on graduate programs nationwide and a search to find graduate programs by field and degree.
  • Look at department websites for information about faculty research, required courses, etc.
  • Though rankings and reputation can certainly be subjective, it can helpful to inquire about the programs or see their rankings like at U.S. News & World Report.

Application Components

Graduate school applications often consist of many different components. Confirm which pieces are required by the programs you are applying to.

  • Test ScoresPrograms usually require some type of standardized test, such as the GRE or a more specialized test like the LSAT (for law school). Be sure to see which test the programs you are interested in require and how many times a year those tests are offered.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Applications typically want to have 3 professional references that will strongly advocate for you.
  • GPA: While GPA is not the only consideration for admission into graduate school, it is an important piece. Graduate schools usually look for GPAs that are 3.0 or above. Certain fields require higher GPA than others as do more selective schools.
  • Involvement: For many fields, being involved in research is essential preparation for graduate school. Internships or relevant work experiences are other ways to gain experience and focus on what aspects you enjoy most in your chosen field.
  • Personal Statement: A personal statement is a way to express your interest in the program and field as well as why you are qualified for the program.

Remember there are many components to applications, so if you have some areas that are weaker than others, that’s okay. Focus on what makes you a good candidate and how you can be well-rounded for graduate school. Applying to graduate school can be a stressful process and it’s important that you stay organized and on top of deadlines for schools.