Making the decision to go to graduate school can be one of the most important decisions in your adult life. Like other major life decisions, it takes time, money and commitment. To start, ask yourself: “Why should I go to graduate school?” and “Do I need to go to graduate school?” Then follow up with a few additional questions: “Do I need an advanced credential to be promoted in my profession?”, or “I’m changing careers; do I need to be licensed?” and “Do I need to go back to school to do in-depth research in the field I’m passionate about?” These questions will lead you to the answer of why you should go to graduate school. From there, your research and expedition into the graduate program that is the right fit for you will begin. However, to get into the right graduate program, you must have a strong application.
Once you’ve established the “Why ” your next step is to find out the “What,” Find out what type of degree you need for what you want in life. To do that, you’ll need to do research, research, and more research. Do you have to pursue a Ph.D. program, a professional Master’s degree such as a Master of Social Work degree, an M.S. in Engineering Management, or an advanced graduate certificate? The list of different types of graduate degrees is endless. If you aren’t sure of what degree type and program you need, ask someone! Speak with a professor/academic adviser, your college Career Center, a friend or even a family member. Attend a graduate school fair, and speak with representatives who visit your campus (like us!). Online graduate guides are also helpful.
Once you narrow down what degree you should pursue, next, you need to find “Where” Where should you go to get the advanced degree you want? You’ll need to do more research to find institutions offering the program you’ve decided on. Get to know the institutions that offer the degree program. Go through their website, their department website, and fill out inquiry forms. Book appointments with admissions officers and discuss the program of interest. Read about the course offerings thoroughly and make note of the application deadlines, so you know when the best time is for you to enroll. If possible, call and schedule a visit to the campus and meet with a faculty member to discuss the program (especially if you’re going to pursue a doctoral program), and speak to current students about the program. Their perspective is the best way to find out if it will be a fit for you.
After your research helps you decide which degree programs and institutions are best for you, as well as when you need to apply, you’ll need to begin building your application. So how do you begin the application process? Think about your application as a sum of its parts, since admissions committees read applications holistically.
1. Review the application requirements and instructions. Be sure you understand what is required and when it is due. If you aren’t sure, contact the admissions office and ask. That’s what they’re there for.
2. Start on your Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose first. This will help you articulate what your goals are, and what you’ll gain from the program. You can keep going back to revise it. Be sure to answer all the questions and prompts, and ask someone to give you feedback. Proof-read twice!
3. You’ll need letters of recommendation. Ask someone (usually a professor) who knows you well and will write a positive letter. Meet with them to discuss why you are applying and what you’d like them to address in their letter. You may even share your personal statement with them.
4. Take the required standardized test. Most programs require them; find out which one you have to take. Make note of when the test date is in relation to the due date of your application. Give yourself enough time to study.
5. Find out what funding is available for the program you’re applying to. Is there any additional paperwork you need to fill out? Are there scholarships, assistantships or grants you’re eligible for? Contact the admission office to ask. Always ask for more financial/scholarship aid if you need it, in addition to any application fee waivers.
6. Submit your application on time!
Going through these steps and asking yourself the Why, What, Where, When, Who and How, will hopefully help you get into the graduate program you want and need to get to the next stage in your life’s journey. We hope to take part in your journey to fulfilling your academic and professional goals by inviting you to explore the graduate programs offered at Tufts University.
ROXANA WOUDSTRA, A’04, AG’14 | Director of Graduate Admissions
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and School of Engineering
Tufts University | Bendetson Hall
T: 617.627.2812 | F: 617.627.4079
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