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Prepare for Graduate School

Key Steps

Preparation for graduate school starts from the beginning of your college career. Graduate school can be an extremely rewarding experience as it gives you the opportunity to explore your ability to think critically and build a network with experts in the field of your choice. However, before attending graduate school it is important to have a clear understanding of what you want to do with your career and how earning a graduate degree will help you reach that goal. 

Below you will find some of the key steps to take in your preparation for graduate school along with resources to help guide you through the research, evaluation, and planning process. 

Step 1: Research

  • What do you want out of a program? What is your purpose for attending?
  • What type of school do you want to attend? Public, private, large, small, etc.
  • Where do you want to attend? How much do you want to spend? 
  • Research options using online websites such as or The Princeton Review. 
  • Start a list of potential graduate schools/programs using a spreadsheet to organize information such as deadlines, cost, test requirements, etc. 

Step 2: Evaluate

  • Make sure the graduate schools/programs are accredited.
  • Be sure that they fit in with your philosophy, purpose, and long-term goals. 
  • Determine the level of commitment and how it can fit into your lifestyle.

Step 3: Prepare

  • Aim for a 3.0 GPA or higher. Most graduate programs require at least a 3.0. The higher your GPA, the more competitive you will be. 
  • Network (i.e. Build Professional Connections). You will need 2-3 letters of recommendation for your application. At least two of these letters will typically need to be from faculty.
  • Work on your personal statement.
  • Brainstorm key qualities, why you are interested in that particular field, and what sets you apart from other candidates. 
  • Prepare for and take admissions exams (i.e. GRE, GMAT, LSAT, etc.). Use test preparation websites such as HETS.

HETS Password is : calstate2013 

Step 4: Finance

  • Complete the FAFSA - you are considered independent in graduate school so you will not qualify for state and federal grants. However, you will still need a FAFSA for scholarships and student loans.
  • Consider gaining outside employment to save money. 
  • Work on scholarship applications.
  • Obtain graduate assistantships or fellowships to help pay for or offset the cost of attending.