What's next, graduate school?

Posted by Kimberly McCoy-Blauser on May 19, 2021 at 11:02 AM

You've graduated and you're thinking about continuing your education.  Let us help you navigate the application process and prepare you to succeed at the graduate level.

Ask the Right Questions

Why this graduate program?  Don’t go to grad school just to go to grad school.  Even in career fields that require a graduate degree, it is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for breaking into that field.  Why graduate school now?  You need to weigh the pros and cons of going straight from your undergraduate to earning your graduate degree or getting some work experience first, and then going back to school. What will be the likely return on this investment?  Weigh the total cost of tuition against the average salary for your anticipated career field.


The Application Process

Start early!  Research and compare schools and programs.  Visit schools, sit in on classes.  Talk with Admissions early and often.  Find out their acceptance rate and what makes for a competitive application.  Look into scholarships and need-based grants, and assistantships to help finance your education.  Ask to be connected with a current student and/or alumni to get first-hand knowledge about their experiences. Ask when you can to expect to hear back on your decision.

Typical Graduate Application

  • Final undergraduate transcripts
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae (C.V.)
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Test scores (if applicable). Note Fitchburg State no longer requires graduate testing.

Create a Timeline

  • 12-6 months prior to application deadline
    • Research /compare programs
    • Formulate a list of schools to apply to
    • Begin studying for any required test (e.g. GRE)
  • Four months prior to application deadline
    • Create/revise your resume/C.V.
    • Compose first draft of your personal statement
    • Request letters of recommendation
  • Three Months prior to application deadline
    • Request feedback on your personal statement draft
    • Take required graduate test
  • One month prior to application deadline
    • Request official undergraduate transcript to be mailed to schools
    • Polish your personal statement/update resume/C.V.
  • Two weeks prior to application deadline
    • Submit completed application
    • Confirm with Admissions that all of your materials have been submitted

Organize your Research

  • Resume/C.V.
  • Letters of recommendation (typically three letters of recommendation from current/former employers and or professors)
  • Request recommendation letters early
  • Give recommenders at least one month to write and submit letter
  • Remember etiquette: recommenders are doing you a favor
  • Follow up, especially as deadline approaches
Writing a Personal Statement
An effective personal statement is not an elaboration of your resume.  Balance personal narrative with academic and/or professional background and aspirations
Avoid generalities.  Tailor your personal statement to each specific school and program.  It’s all about the fit.  Describe how this degree program fits with your academic and professional goals, as well as how your academic and professional background fits with the program.

Research Funding
Build a raft of funding.  Don’t try to fund your entire education through just one source.

  • Federal loans
  • Private loans
  • Merit based aid/scholarships
  • Graduate assistantships
  • External scholarships
  • Employer benefits
  • Personal funds/savings—every dollar helps!

You're in, now what?
Submit FAFSA.  Confirm your decision with Admissions.  Contact the financial aid office at the school to solidify financial aid and scholarships.  Know your student bill and due dates. 

Want more information on graduate school? Let one of our GCE advisors help you start your new endeavor. We’re here all summer to help you navigate your next steps.

Speak to an advisor


Topics: Preparing for College, Admissions