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2 Hello, and welcome to the University of Utah webshop on getting into graduate school. We hope that you will come away with both insights into the decision process that goes into and the process of getting into graduate school. First let s discuss your motivations. Why are you choosing to go? Is it for money, prestige, or is it just a requirement for the profession? Are you considering this because of peer or family pressure? Is it because you don t know what else to do after you graduate? Whatever your reasons, make sure you know what you are signing up for. The time to make decisions is now, not after you have spent years of your life and thousands of dollars. 2

3 Consider graduate school an investment in your future. Here are the most recent figures available from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data shows the general median income for working people over age 25. This is not starting salaries and is not specific to one profession. It is the median of all people with degrees in all fields by educational level. It is easy to see, that education and pay are positively correlated. Keep in mind that this doesn t mean that if you get a Master s in Social Work your median income will be $63,600; that figure is the median of all master s degrees. 3

4 While we are making note of master s degrees, please note that master s degrees are offered in most academic fields that you may obtain a bachelor s degree in. But there are some master s degrees that may not be preceded by a bachelor s in the same field. At the University of Utah, there is no bachelor s program in Public Administration. That is considered a professional master s. Master s degrees are always preceded by bachelor s degree but in some cases you may need to get a bachelor s degree in another related subject first. An example would be that to get into the MSW program, you will need to get a bachelor s degree in Psychology, Sociology or other social science or humanities program to be considered for admittance. 4

5 Doctoral degrees come in several varieties. A Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, is commonly offered in most academic programs that offer bachelor s degrees. They are usually required to teach at a research level university. Not all PhD programs require that you get a master s degree first. In some cases you apply directly to a PhD program from your bachelor s program. There are other types of doctoral degrees like an Ed.D. or Doctor of Education, a J.D. or Juris Doctor (Law). 5

6 A bachelor s degree shows you posses the basic knowledge to understand the theory underlying a field. A master s degree means you have a deeper understanding of the body of knowledge surrounding your field. A master s is often required for professions that require more expertise or a license in a field like an MSW. Business managers may want an MBA to gain the respect of those they manage or investors in their business. A master s level education shows you have a deeper level of understanding than the typical bachelor s graduate. You may be eligible for additional pay with a master s degree. A master s degree is required now in many fields that used to accept bachelor s degrees. A PhD shows you have not only an indepth understanding of your field, but that you have done research and/or published on a new subject that adds to the body of knowledge in your field. A PhD often takes 5-7 years of study past a bachelor s degree. In addition, to teach at a research university, it may take an additional one or two years of post-doctoral fellowships after the PhD. Professional degrees, like an M.D., require years of intense study and hands-on clinical experience. 6

7 Many students make their first effort at admissions to graduate school by contacting an admissions counselor/advisor in the program or department you are interested in. This person may be either a faculty member or a designated staff person. Either way, the admissions advisor represents a specific academic program. If you are trying to decide on the right path for you, keep in mind that they are also often one of the chief recruiters for their program. If you are trying to decide on which brand of car to buy, of course the Toyota salesperson is going to try to sell you a Toyota, not a Honda. If you are trying to decide on the right path for you, it may be beneficial to talk to a career counselor before you begin talking to academic admissions advisors. Other information is available through the Career Library, graduate school directories and websites. Most graduate programs have an FAQ web page that will answer at least 90% of your questions. 7

8 A graduate program is a large investment in both time and money. Once you have decided on a field to pursue, you should consider the quality and reputation of the academic program you are investing in. What is the best school and what is the best education I can afford are questions that should be addressed separately. Many schools offer fellowships and various scholarships and financial aid. You may be surprised at what you can afford. How do potential employers feel about this school s reputation? 8

9 It is important to note that statistics show that most of the successful students admitted to graduate programs have their admissions materials in the first batch of applications. You might find that admissions are accepted for a several week- or month-long open period, but most of the students admitted will be in the first batch of applicants. This may be due to the fact that the admissions committees are eager to get the job done of filling the new seats in their program. Even though you have a several week window, don t wait. This is one situation where the early birds definitely get the worm. 9

10 There are generally five items that graduate schools use to determine who gets accepted. Here are the five items: 1. A high enough GPA. Although a 4.0 GPA alone will not guarantee admittance. 2. A good score on your admissions test. (GRE, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, etc.) 3. What you have done outside the classroom. (Internships, research assisting, student government, volunteer, other involvement.) 4. Letters of recommendation. (Both the quality and who writes them.) 5. Your personal statement or admissions essay. It takes time to gather all of these items. Start working on it now. 10

11 Deciding on the graduate program(s) you want to pursue is one of the most important decisions you may make. Where you go and the program you choose will impact your life in many ways. Don t make a choice like going to law school, just because it seems like a good thing to pursue. Do your homework! Make sure you know what you are getting into and have a passion for the field. Law school, medical school and many graduate programs can be very intense and test your resolve and commitment. People have called law school or medical school the most difficult undertaking in their lives. Are you capable of putting your social life on hold for months or years if needed? Are you willing to study long hours? Are you willing to speak at professional conferences or submit years of your work for criticism? It is very important that you research this and speak to people who have completed the program you are considering. 11

12 A credentials file is where you store your official letters of recommendation, admissions test results, transcripts, and other required admissions documents. Depending on the graduate program you are applying for, some require confidential letters of recommendation. This means you waive your right to read the letters written by the faculty in your file. Therefore it is important to ask for letters from faculty that you are quite sure will write you a great recommendation letter. 12

13 The GRE is the most common graduate admissions test. Other tests like the LSAT (Law), GMAT (Business), MCAT (Medicine) are for specific professional graduate programs. 13

14 Credentials files are used to store your letters and documents needed for your graduate application process. Some graduate programs like law schools require that the organization that administers your admissions test also manage your admissions documents or credentials. The LSAS (Law School Admissions Service) handles almost all law school admissions files besides administering the LSAT test. You sign up for your file and indicate how many files you will be sending out when you sign up to take the test. Other programs that take the GRE may not be particular, but you will need to indicate a service like Interfolio.com to manage your file. If your graduate program requires closed or confidential letters (common in the humanities and some social sciences), you must sign a waiver of your right to read the letters in your file. Find out from the graduate admissions official at the schools you intend to apply to who handles the credentials of their applicants. Interfolio is a credentials service recommended by the University of Utah and widely accepted by other graduate programs. They will store and send all your admissions document as an official file. There is a fee, but the time and cost of getting numerous official transcripts, copying and mailing make it a reasonable buy whether your graduate program would allow you to self manage your own file and documents. See for prices and details. 14

15 15

16 See the LSAS or AMCAS web sites and look for their admissions service or application service. All credentials services charge a fee. Fees are usually charged on a monthly basis and vary from $3 per month for basic services to $15 per month which includes a personal web file, advanced graphic capabilities. How much you pay also depends on how many graduate programs you will apply to. 16

17 Graduate schools almost always require official transcripts for admissions. One of the advantages of setting up a credentials file is that one official transcript can be used repeatedly to apply for multiple graduate programs. The official transcript remains official (in most cases) as long as you aren t handling it. Example: The Law School Admissions Test is handled by the Law School Admissions Service and you set up your credentials file and send your transcripts and letters to them for submission to the law schools you choose to apply for. 17

18 Most graduate programs require a personal statement or admissions essay. This is a major component of your application. Plan on writing 3-6 drafts before you submit your final version into your credentials file. Get a book titled How to Write a Winning Personal Statement or Perfect Personal Statements by Peterson s Guides. (See the Career Services website for an example.) The biggest mistake people make is to tell the admissions committee what they already know. DO NOT tell them why someone should be a doctor or lawyer or why this is a good profession. (They already know that.) You need to tell them why you are doing this, what influenced you and you need to relate a personal story in this process. Get help from the campus writing center. Ask to have several people proofread it for you. This essay should not be done at the last minute or without extensive editing. Ask a friend who is an English major. Ask professors. Look on the web for examples. This is your story. It s a very important document and may make or break your admissions effort. 18

19 You should try to take a test preparation class or program if you can afford to. The commercial test-prep programs are Kaplan s and ACE. But the University of Utah has a test-prep program that holds classes to prepare students to take the GRE, LSAT, and MCAT. It costs about ½ as much to take the University test-prep as the commercial programs mentioned above. You can expect to get 90% of the same course materials through the University. Some of the commercial programs may have special additions like being able to take practice tests weekly. But for the cost, the U. program will statistically improve your admissions test scores by about 10%. That 10% improvement in your test score may make the difference if you get accepted to medical school or not. 19

20 Some graduate programs require personal interviews, many do not. If yours require a sit-down interview and/or visit to their program, you must prepare for this event. Ask the admissions advisor for a timeline of the interview(s) and what to expect. On our campus, the Pre-Professional Advising Office has workshops and assistance for Pre- Med and Pre-Law students. If you cannot find this help for the program you are applying for, talk to your career counselor. 20

21 It is up to you to ensure your application materials and credentials make it on time and are complete. Check with the graduate school to make sure they have everything. Your chances of getting accepted to a graduate program, especially competitive programs, will be severely hurt if your materials are late or incomplete. Don t make assumptions. Check to make sure your admissions file is complete. 21

22 A simple mistake can cost you a lot of time and money and ruin your chances of admissions. This is detail-oriented work that shouldn t be done at the last minute. There is no excuse for being rude to the secretaries or administrative staff of the department you are applying to. In some cases, they can make notes on your file and may speak of your rudeness to admissions committee members. Be patient and respectful during the waiting period. You will be notified when they make their decision. On a rare occasion, if a school offers admission to you but you would rather accept admission from a different school that you applied to, it may be permissible to contact the second school to inquire of when you may be informed. 22

23 Congratulations!!! You have been offered admissions to a graduate school or multiple schools. If you are considering admissions between two PhD programs, you should try to visit the departments that accepted you personally. You may find out a lot from a personal visit that you could not find out otherwise. Inquire on fellowships, scholarships, teaching philosophies Once you accept admission, you have given your word as a contract. Do not consider other offers after you have accepted admission. That reflects badly on you and on the University of Utah. 23

24 Graduate programs have unique personalities. Make sure you are choosing one that fits you. Talk to some of the graduate students or recent graduates. Some extra research before you accept a program may mean a great deal to your future career. 24

25 One important factor on getting accepted into a graduate program is what kind of experience do you have outside the classroom. This may be clinical experience as a medical assistant for medical school. Working in a law office or doing an internship in Washington DC for law school. Pre-Pharmacy students need to have some experience in a pharmacy. Shadowing, volunteering, or doing non-paid work may have less weight that a formal internship. Being elected as a student body officer with ASUU may be very helpful in getting into an MBA or MPA program. In some science and engineering graduate programs it may be required that you have worked in a lab or as a research assistant in a academically relevant research lab or program. The more relevant experience you have, the better your odds may be as long as your GPA doesn t suffer from doing too much work that it negatively impacts your GPA. Talk to your career counselor and professors about gaining opportunities to improve your admissions. 25

26 Networking is an important step in the graduate admissions process. There is nothing better than a direct referral from a respected faculty member who strongly believes you have what it takes to succeed in a graduate program. Relationships take time and effort on your part. Take interest in your faculty and their research. Make appointments to meet with your professors and express your interest in graduate school. Faculty treat prospective graduate students differently if they feel your interest in an advanced degree. 26

27 Graduate fairs are scheduled each fall. Most are held in the Union Ballroom. Ask your pre-professional advisor if there is a fair appropriate for your field or look on the Career Services website: 27

28 If you are going on to an advanced academic program for the next 3-8 years, wouldn t it be helpful to know up front what to expect and how to deal with the politics? How to choose your graduate committee? How to choose a research topic? This book provides the best insight into succeeding in graduate school I have found. If I were the Dean of the Graduate School, I would make it required reading. I guarantee if you are thinking of teaching or doing research at a research university, you will be thankful you read this book. 28

29 The Career Library has some great materials to help you make informed decisions. Make sure to see the Peterson s Guides to Graduate Programs and the Game Plan for Getting Into Graduate School. The sooner you get engaged in the process the better your chances of success. Good luck!!! 29

30 See: for more information and a list of career counselors. 30

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