Graduate School

What’s the First Step?

The first step in applying for graduate or professional school is to consider your reasons for attending. Do your homework about the career fields that interest you and the requirements for getting into them. Allow yourself enough time to reflect and get all of the information you want and need before deciding where and when to apply.  

Good reasons to go include:

  • Your career field of interest requires graduate or professional school
  • You are interested in a particular subject and want to learn more about it
  • You want to do research in a particular field 
  • You love school and it would be fun and exciting to continue

Not so good reasons are:

  • Someone else wants you to pursue a career field that requires graduate/professional school but you are not interested in it yourself
  • You are afraid to enter the job market
  • You don’t know what else to do

Use the resources on this page to help with your decision-making or consult with a faculty member in your field of interest.


Looking at graduate programs can be intimidating. Your research will probably have two phases: learning about graduate opportunities that generally apply to you, and then later researching exactly which programs you will apply to. 

Ask Around

As soon as you are considering graduate school, start talking to your professors, your graduate Teaching Assistants, and others you know with advanced degrees in your field. They all applied to graduate school at least once. Your faculty are the experts in the field, and they will be critical to your process. 

Write down the names of three people – at least one should be a faculty member – with whom you can discuss your interest in graduate school in their field.

Timing is Your Choice

When you go to graduate school is up to you, and different interests call for different courses of action. For those of you for whom this is a necessity to pursue your career of interest sooner may be better. For some, working for 2-5 years may be a better choice.

Research Your Field

Do your homework about your field. What exactly do you want to do? Toward what career path do different degrees lead you? Which program is going to teach you what you really want to learn? Spend time and effort on this very important step.

Review & Evaluate Several Programs

Look at specific programs at specific institutions. Evaluate faculty and program details. Pick 15-25 programs to review in depth:

  • What are the requirements for applying? 
  • What is the curriculum like? 
  • Who are the faculty doing research that interests you?
  • What is the reputation and ranking of the school?
  • Do you like the location? 
  • What is the cost of tuition? 
  • Where are the alumni working? 
  • What are the facilities like?

Keep in mind that not all of these things will be equally important to you.

By Luis Castillo
Luis Castillo