Applying to Grad School?

Eller PDC Coach's Corner

In this post, you will find information on applying to graduate school, what to do if you have a “low” GPA, and if graduate school is the right option for you.  If you are considering applying to graduate school, remember to make an appointment in the Professional Development Center for help with the process. 

Applying to Graduate School?

What are the basic steps and what is the timeline?  The single best piece of advice is do everything early!  You will find that the time passes incredibly quickly.  Deadlines can sneak up on you.Believe it or not, it is best to start a full year in advance.  You need plenty of time to gather information on the various programs in your area of interest and to evaluate them.  Each school has its own specific timeline which can usually be found on its website.

What should you be thinking about?

Do your research! Talk to experts in the field, your professors, and alumni of the schools to which you might apply.

Get the applications now!  Apply to enough schools so that you will have options come acceptance time.  Include one “safe” school and one “stretch.”

GRE, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT?  Now is the time to gather information about schedules and test prep.

Now is the time to build quality relationships with your professors — doing so might help you to get a positive recommendation.  Perhaps be an assistant to one of your professors during your senior year?

Why not begin drafting your personal statement now?

The majority of high quality MBA programs require a minimum of 3 years of professional level experience before an applicant will be considered.

How to Get Into Graduate School With a “Low” GPA?

Most top ranked graduate programs prefer a GPA of 3.5 or better. While there is no guarantee you can attend graduate school with a sub 3.0 GPA, here are some suggestions that might improve your chances:

*Try to achieve good grades in the remaining classes in your major, upper division classes or classes in your intended area of graduate study. Graduate Admissions Committees will pay attention to an upswing in your grades or a definitive turn-around

*Acquiring research experience can enhance your chances of acceptance

*Ace the GRE (or GMAT, LSAT or MCAT).

*Work on your writing skills. A well written statement of purpose will better impress graduate admission reviewers

*If you are a re-entry student, or had a break in your education, think about the skills you acquired and what you learned while not in school.

*Be realistic in your school selection. Apply to programs that take your whole application into account. Some schools look for hard numbers, while others assess applications based more on intangibles

*Don’t underestimate your relationships – making a connection with a faculty member may enhance your chance of admission.

The lesson: Don’t let your undergraduate GPA squash your dream of getting into graduate school. Grades are not the only deciding factor, and there are ways you can emphasize your strengths to avoid getting rejected based on a low GPA.

Is Graduate School Right for You?

How do you know if graduate school is right for you? Here are some factors to consider:

Intellectual curiosity and professional advancement (and, perhaps, a lucrative career!) are good reasons to go to graduate school.  But doing so because you are not sure what else to do, or don’t feel ready to commit to a career, are not good reasons.

Career and Compensation
Graduates with a master’s degree in business often have a competitive advantage over their undergraduate degree peers.  Many employers prefer a master’s degree, and require one for career advancement.  Here are some median master’s degree salaries:  market research analyst ($60,600), human resources manager ($99,180) and Management Consultant ($78,160).  Contrast this to the median compensation for undergraduates:  $50,000.

Graduate school is very expensive:  as much as $40,000 per year (private).  Will you qualify for financial aid?

Before making your decision, please do your research!  It is helpful to talk with professors and graduate students – you might even “shadow” a first year graduate student for a “reality check.”

There are both pros and cons to going to graduate school.  Seek information from multiple sources, including the Career Counseling Center.  Most important – be honest with yourself, and trust your judgment.