Step 1: Learn about the value of graduate education.

  • Is a graduate degree required for your chosen career?
  • How is graduate education different from undergraduate study?
  • Will a graduate degree improve your marketability?
  • What careers are available for people with degrees in your area of study?
  • What is the job market like in your field of study?

Step 2: Gather information to help you make your decisions – narrowing the field.

  • Should you attend graduate school at this time?
  • Who is a trusted faculty member you can consult with?
  • What areas of specialization are available within your chosen subject?
  • Are there well-known professors with whom you'd like to study?
  • What schools offer graduate degrees in your subject?
  • Which of these fit your overall needs?
  • What alternatives do you have if you're not admitted to any of your chosen schools?
  • Which schools should you visit?

Step 3: Figure out how to pay for it!

  • How much does graduate study cost at each of your chosen schools?
  • Will the school financially support your education?
  • Are assistantships, scholarships, or fellowships available? How many students receive them?
  • Do assistantships and fellowships include fee remission, insurance, and other benefits?
  • What are the duties and expectations of graduate assistants at each school?
  • Will your employer help with the bill?
  • What is the cost of living in that geographic area?
  • What housing options are available on and off campus?
  • Are jobs available in the community?

Step 4: Complete and submit application materials.

  • What are the deadlines?
  • What admission test is required and how do you register for it?
  • What supporting materials will you need (e.g., personal statement, recommendation letters, essay)?
  • What questions can you expect during the interview?
  • Have you kept copies of everything?

Step 5: Choose among the offers for graduate school.

  • How do the financial aid packages compare?
  • How do the reputations and locations of the programs compare?
  • How well do you feel you will fit into each program?
  • Which offer most closely fits your needs and interests?
  • What will you do if you don't receive any offers?

Step 6: Begin your graduate student adventure.

  • Relocate.
  • Make friends in the program.
  • Select a mentor.
  • Establish a research agenda.
  • Make friends with the support staff in the department.
  • Study! Study! Study!
  • Quickly become familiar with the library and its Web site.
  • Network – take advantage of all lectures and special events, and meet with the speakers.
  • Join relevant professional associations as a student member.
  • Read newsletters and journal articles of professional associations.
  • Attend professional conferences.