IS GRADUATE SCHOOL RIGHT FOR YOU?
Many students grapple with the question of whether or not to pursue a graduate degree. For some programs (typically those more rooted in health and technology), a graduate degree is necessary to practice in the field. For other programs, there is no right or wrong answer—it depends on the interests of the individual.
Talk with professors in your field to learn more about their personal career path, how a graduate degree could affect your competitiveness within the industry, and the different options available to you.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
- Is there a specific subject area I want to learn more about?
- Could gaining knowledge in a focused area, in addition to my undergraduate knowledge, benefit me in the job market?
- Am I passionate enough about this material to continue studying and producing work in the field?
- Would it make more sense for me to go directly to graduate school, or take a few years off and reconsider the option in the future?
NEVER be afraid to ask professors or advisors these questions. They were in your shoes once, and know better than anyone what answers and advice to give.
rESUME VERSUS CV
When it comes to applying to programs beyond the undergraduate level, understanding the difference between a Resume and CV, and which one is appropriate to use can be confusing. Allow us to simplify:
A resume is a document, usually no longer than one page in length, designed to give employers a quick and targeted overview of your skills and qualifications for a specific position within an organization. When applying for a job, your resume is the appropriate document to send.
A CV, (also called a curriculum vitae or a vita), is much longer, and can be anywhere from 2-20 pages, depending on an individual’s level of education and list of accomplishments. CVs are designed to inform readers about your life accomplishments, especially within the realm of academia. When applying to graduate, professional, law, or medical schools, submitting a CV will give readers a more complete idea of your ability to thrive in their program.
TIP: A program will usually specify which document they want attached to your application. In instances where this is not the case, use your best judgment as to which document makes more sense for the context, or simply ask a recruiter politely which one they would prefer to see.
Click here for more specific guidelines on how to write effective resumes and CVs.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE/PERSONAL STATEMENT
Personal statements and statements of purpose are documents that typically carry a lot of weight within your application package. Your grades, test scores, and accomplishments give recruiters an idea of how likely you are to succeed in their program, but your statement is a chance to tell recruiters:
- Who you are beyond your test scores and grades?
- What differentiates you from other applicants?
- Why should they put their faith in you as a candidate?
Though personal statements and statements of purpose sounds very similar, there are subtle differences between the two.
A STATEMENT OF PURPOSE is a focused explanation of why you are applying to a specific program. You may want to explain details such as how your research interests align with a professor in this particular program, or how this program offers a unique focus or combination of disciplines that fit your academic goals more closely than other programs. When writing a statement of purpose, avoid using flowery language or analogies that do not directly address why you wish to study in this particular program.
A PERSONAL STATEMENT has more flexibility, and is often designed to gain more insight about your character and aspirations, rather than the program itself. Personal statements tend to be better for describing your passion for your field, why you are choosing to pursue a graduate degree, and where you would like to go with it. While you should still touch on why you are a good fit for this specific program, you have more freedom in how you choose to convey that message.
Occasionally, programs will ask for both types of statements. This can seem especially daunting having to craft two distinct pictures of yourself, but is manageable as long as you’re sure to organize your thoughts. When asked for both types, the best path to follow is to write your statement of purpose first, laying out all the specific details and describing your intent. It will then be easier to move on in the personal statement to describing why you chose this path, or what indirect experiences may have impacted your journey.
Want to know more? Check out the PURDUE OWL to view tips on how to write a Personal Statement and examples!
When it comes to preparing for graduate school, the earlier you start to research your options, the easier the process will be for you later on when the deadlines begin rapidly approaching. Some students start to speak with professors and advisers about suggested paths or programs as early as their junior year. Of course, students who do not know they intend to go graduate school early on can still get accepted to programs, but simply must be more organized as they have shorter amounts of time to prepare application materials.
The majority of PhD program applications are usually due in December or January, while Masters program deadlines can be as early as November, or as late as March. Each program is different, so be sure to check with your specific program and mark important dates on your calendar. A good graduate school preparation timeline to follow can be seen below:
- Begin consulting advisers and professors to discover if graduate school is right for you, what path you might take, and which schools have strong programs for your area of focus.
EARLY SUMMER BEFORE SENIOR YEAR
- Begin putting together your list of programs that you want to apply to, adding or cutting schools as you go along.
- Figure out which standardized test your field requires –the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT—and take a practice test to gauge how much time you’ll need to study before you take the real test.
- If your scores on the practice test are lower than where you’d like them to be, consider registering for a test preparation course.
- Register ahead of time for the real test. Slots fill up quickly at testing centers, so don’t save this step until a few days before you intend to take the test.
- Begin crafting your personal statement and/or statement of purpose, brainstorming ideas for the best ways to accurately portray yourself.
- Take your standardized test, leaving time in the coming months to retake it if you’re not happy with your scores on the first time around.
- Research financial options. Consider government agencies, philanthropic organizations, campus fellowships, teaching assistantships, professional organizations, and honor societies as potential sources and funding.
- Meet with faculty members in your department to discuss your personal statement, program options and potential funding sources.
- Finalize the list of schools you will apply to.
- Get organized and create a file for each school and retain all related application material for your records.
- If needed, take your standardized tests again and ensure your scores are sent to the appropriate schools.
- Complete your personal statement and have it reviewed by the CCO staff during Drop-Ins.
- Set up IN-PERSON meetings with faculty to request letters of recommendation. Arrive prepared and provide them with a copy of your statement of purpose, resume/curriculum vitae (CV), and the recommendation letter submission process and deadlines for each school.
- Order transcripts from all post-secondary institutions and request official copies be sent to the schools you have applied.
- Submit application materials one month before the application timeline.
- Remind your recommenders of when your letters of recommendation must be received.
- Follow-up with the schools you have applied to and verify they have received all your application materials.
- Conduct informational interviews with students who are currently in the programs you applied to in order to better understand the program and consider scheduling campus visits to the schools you’re most interest in.
- Send thank you notes to your recommenders and update them on your application status.
LAW & MEDICINE
The Center for Pre-Professional Advising at Purdue University provides you with the information you need to prepare for a career in a professional field -- from choosing the right career for you to determining what credentials you need to enter that field and applying to various programs. They also offer a professional file service that stores and distributes your collected letters of recommendation to certain health programs.