Considering Graduate or Professional School?
Start your journey here.
Start with the lingo
Graduate and professional schools are available when your career goals or interests require training beyond your bachelor's degree. Each advanced degree program comes with its own demands on your time and resources. So what are the different degrees?
A professional degree prepares you for a specific career, like becoming a lawyer, medical doctor, or dentist. In general, professional degrees focus more on practice than research. In contrast, a graduate degree prepares you to conduct research in a specific field of study, culminating in a thesis to complete the degree. Graduate degrees are not as strictly tied to a particular career.
Not sure which advanced degree is right for you? One place to start is by looking up people who have the career in which you're interested. What kind of advanced degree(s) do they have? Noting their degrees and where they went to school can guide your own search.
Getting organized will help you keep track of important due dates and application requirements. Create a calendar and to-do list to help.
Some common aspects of applications for you to note include:
- Taking an entrance exam (GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT)
- Studying for an entrance exam takes time--most sources recommend spending around three months preparing. Make a study schedule leading up to the date of your entrance exam.
- Schedule the exam with time to spare before applications are due so that you can retake the exam if necessary. If applications are due in December, for example, take your first exam 6-9 months in advance.
- Writing a personal statement
- Soliciting letters of recommendation from college instructors
- Composing answers to questions an individual program's application asks
When researching degree programs, look at what kinds of funding they offer their students. Some programs are funded, meaning that they pay for the student's tuition, and sometimes for living expenses. Others offer teaching or research assistantships to cover living expenses or to help pay for tuition.
Many programs, however, are not funded. If you are eligible for VA education benefits, you might consider applying remaining months of eligibility to your advanced degree; often these programs are more costly than a bachelor's degree. Check with the VA before making any decisions.
Scholarships offer another way to supplement or, in some cases, entirely fund your advanced degree. IVETS has compiled tips for creating successful scholarship applications and a list of scholarships for military-connected students.