What is Graduate School?

Graduate school is professional education beyond a bachelor's degree. Masters degrees are available in a great many fields of study, and usually require 36 credit hours to complete. These courses can be taken over a period of approximately two years of full time study, or four to five years of part-time study.

To go or not to go?

Research areas of occupational interest, using Occupational Outlook Handbook and other career resources. Determine what the education requirements are for entry level positions in your particular field. Is graduate school necessary to enter this field, or is it a prerequisite for advancement. How will a graduate degree affect your earning potential? What jobs are available to you with an undergraduate degree? What jobs are available with a graduate degree?

Talk with people working in the kind of job that interest you. Ask them about the value of a graduate degree in their particular field. Ask them about the usual procedures: do employers assist in financing graduate degrees? Will a graduate degree assist you in meeting your career goals?

Weigh the advantages and disadvantages and make a decision. Graduate school means a commitment to investing time and money. Why do you want to pursue a degree? What are the drawbacks? What will you do?

Choosing a school and field of study

From your research and contact people, you should have developed a clear idea of what program of study you are interested in pursuing.

Talk to faculty or a graduate of the school(s) in which you are interested.

Career Planning has a database of Graduate Schools, which can be search by programs. The database offers a wealth of information including web and e-mail addresses.

Collect college graduate catalogs and applications

Call, e-mail or write the graduate admissions office requesting their graduate catalog and an application.

Application Essays

Writing an essay, or personal statement, is often the most difficult part of the application process. Requirements vary widely in this regard. Some programs request one or two paragraphs, while others require five or six separate essays.

An essay or personal statement for an application should be essentially a statement of your ideas and goals. Usually it includes a certain amount of personal history, but, unless an institution specifically requests autobiographical information, you do not have to supply any.

Before writing anything, stop and consider what your reader might be looking for; the general directions or other parts of the application may give you an indication of this. Admissions committees may be trying to evaluate a number of things from your statement, including the following things about you.

  • Motivation and commitment to a field of study
  • Expectations with regard to the program and career opportunities
  • Writing ability
  • Major areas of interest
  • Research and/or work experience
  • Educational background
  • Immediate and long term goals
  • Reasons for deciding to pursue graduate education in a particular field and at a particular institution
  • Maturity
  • Personal uniqueness - what you would add to the diversity of the entering class

Your advisor and those who write your letters of recommendation may be helpful in critiquing your essay. Do not be surprised, however, if you get differing opinions on the content of your essay. In the end, only you can decide on the best way of presenting yourself.

Interviews, portfolios and auditions

Some graduate programs will require you to appear for an interview, and for certain programs you may have to submit a portfolio of your work or schedule an audition.

Interviews: An interview can be an excellent opportunity for you to persuade an institution's admission officer or committee on your qualification.

Interviewers will be interested in the way you think and approach problems and will probably concentrate on questions that enable them to assess your thinking skills, rather than questions that call upon your grasp of technical knowledge.

You should prepare for a graduate school interview as you would a job interview. Think about the questions you are likely to be asked and practice verbalizing your answers. Think about what you want interviewers to know about you so you can present this information when the opportunity is given. Dress as you would for an employment interview.

Portfolios: Many graduate programs in Art, Architecture, Journalism, Environmental Design, and other fields involving visual creativity may require a portfolio. The function of the portfolio is to show your skills and ability to do further work in a particular field, and it should reflect the scope of your cumulative training and experience.

Auditions: Like a portfolio, the auditions are a demonstration of your skills and talent, and can be often required by programs in music, theater, and dance.

Admission Decisions

At most institutions, once the graduate school office has received all of your application materials, your file is sent directly to the academic department. A faculty committee then makes a recommendation to the chief graduate school officer.

Usually a student's grade point average, graduate admission scores, and letters of recommendation are the primary factors considered by admissions committees.

Some graduate programs follow a score formula. For example, one local college requires a score of 3600. This is derived from your (Q.P.A. x 1000) plus G.R.E. total = 3600. The Q.P.A. (4.00 scale) is for the last 60 hours of undergraduate work. The G.R.E. total is for the three parts of the Aptitude Test of the Graduate Record Examination (verbal, quantitative, and analytical).

Financial Aid

The range of financial assistance available at the graduate level is very broad. There are three basic types of aid - grants and fellowships, work programs, and loans and various sources - the federal government, state governments, educational institutions, foundations, corporations, and other private organizations such as professional associations.



  • Research areas of interest, institutions and programs.
  • Talk to advisors about application requirements.
  • Register and prepare for graduate admission tests.
  • Investigate national scholarships.
  • If appropriate, obtain letters of recommendation.


  • Take required graduate admission test.
  • Write for application materials.
  • Visit institution of interest, if possible.
  • Write your application essay.
  • Check on application deadlines and rolling admissions policy.


  • Obtain letters of recommendation.
  • Take graduate admissions test if you haven't already.
  • Send in completed applications.


  • Register for Financial Aid.
  • Check with school to make sure application is complete.
  • Send Deposit
  • Send Thank-You letters to people who wrote your recommendation letters, informing them of your success.

Contact Career Planning

Carol Cullinan, Director

Kimberly A. Partyka, Secretary

Career Planning
Medaille College
18 Agassiz Circle
Buffalo, New York 14214
(716) 880-2210


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