College Program - Back to School Night - Katrina Mansfield
Katrina MansfieldNaval Air Systems Command
My Background Is Graduate School for You? Finding the Right School Evaluating Graduate Programs The Application Process Can Your GPA Stop You From Getting Accepted? Tips and Tricks for Getting Into Graduate School Questions and Discussion
What do I want to study? Am I doing this to escape an unsatisfying job, or an unhealthy job market? Am I doing this to figure out what I want to do with my life? What makes me a good candidate for Graduate School? Am I ready to spend 2-6 years to do this? Can I get a fulfilling job without further education? Would I have a better idea about graduate school in this field if I worked it first? How will I finance grad school?
Use many sources. The more sources you use, the more likely you are to find a program that meets your goals. If you are interested in a particular field, pay attention to who is working/researching in that field and where they are. Read their publications, and visit their websites. Contact them, and ask intelligent questions about their work. Explore the possibility of working with them in their lab or research. Locate the people who are writing your college textbooks. Those authors might be worth considering as prospective advisors. Ask college professors where the good programs are. Visit schools to get a “feel”, speak with current students, and meet with program administrators. Use directories such as Peterson’s Guide or the U.S. News & World Report to research programs. Go to the website of the colleges and universities in which you are interested. Send for college catalogs and financial information. Browse College Source Online: College Search which lists over 10,600 catalogs.
Consider these criteria when choosing a graduate program: Quality and reputation of the faculty The focus of the curriculum (research, experiential) The availability and access to facilities and resources on campus COST and financial aid Racial and ethnic diversity Access to Career Services and academic assistance Housing availability Geographic location Internship or co-op opportunities Time needed to finish the degree Availability of funding The match between your interests and the professor’s interests
1. Graduate Admissions Test Most graduate programs require standardized exams such as the GRE for admission; the GRE is similar in structure to the SATs but taps your potential for graduate level work Law, medical, and business schools usually require specialized tests such as the LSAT, MCAT, and GMAT, respectively Each of these exams is standardized, meaning that they are normed, permitting students from different colleges to be compared meaningfully. Some programs also require the GRE Subject Test, a standardized test that covers the material in a discipline (e.g., Psychology). Some, but not all, schools reveal their average GRE scores in their admissions material and in graduate school admissions books, such as the Petersens Guides. Register early for these tests by calling your Regional Registration Center.2. Transcripts Request that your undergraduate transcripts be mailed to selected graduate programs, providing names, addresses, and appropriate fees to the Registrar’s Office.
3. Recommendations The GRE and GPA components of your application portray you as just a bunch of scores, the letter of recommendation is what permits the committee to begin thinking of you as a person. The quality of your letters rests on the quality of your relationships with professors: Make a good impression on professors, make research contacts with faculty, and seek out experiences that will set you apart from other students. Take care and choose appropriate letter writers Remember that a good letter helps your application tremendously but a bad or even neutral letter will send your application into the rejection pile. Do not ask for a letter from a professor who knows nothing more about you than the fact that you got an A - such letters do not enhance your application, but detract from it. Be courteous and respectful in asking for letters and provide enough information to help the professor write a helpful letter. Letters from employers can also be included if they include information on your duties and aptitude relating to your field of study (or your motivation and quality of work, overall). Examples of letters NOT to include are those from: friends, spiritual leaders such as ministers, and public officials. Such letters are a poor attempt to impress the committee members who instead look for students who have proof of a real passion and involvement in work pertaining to their field.
4. Personal Statement The admissions essay is your opportunity to speak up for yourself Demonstrate that you have done your research! Before you begin writing, consider your qualities Carefully structure your essay First think about who will be reading your statement and what they are looking for in an essay Not only are they committee members. They are scholars who are searching for the kind of motivation that implies a dedicated and intrinsic interest in the matters dealt with in their field of study. And they are looking for someone who will be productive and interested in their work Be creative and informative as you introduce yourself and explain why you want to attend graduate school and why each program is a perfect match to your skills Explain your relevant skills, experiences, and accomplishments into your essay Focus on how your educational and occupational experiences such as research led you to this program. Dont rely only on emotional motivation (such as "I want to help people" or "I want to learn") Describe how this program will benefit you and how your skills can benefit the faculty within it) Where you see yourself in the program and how it fits into your future goals Some programs require students to complete one or several admissions essays on specific topics, such as addressing questions to illustrate applicants critical analysis skills. Always answer the question!
5. Resume Send your most recent resume outlining your educational background and experience6. Admission Application and Financial Aid Application Dot every I, and cross every T! Be aware of deadlines, which usually occur in November, January and at the latest, March. Aim to send between 5-7 applications to increase your chances of getting in. Keep copies and follow up with admissions offices to ensure all of your materials have been received.7. Interviews Although not part of the application, some programs use interviews to get a look at finalists Sometimes what looks like a great match on paper isnt in person If youre asked to interview for a graduate program, remember that this is your opportunity to determine how well a fit the program is for you In other words, youre interviewing them, as much as they are interviewing you.
Your GPA is important to admissions committees, not because it signifies your intelligence, but instead because it is a long‐term indicator how well you perform your job as student Grades reflect your motivation and your ability to do consistently good or bad work Generally, most masters programs require minimum GPAs of 3.0 or 3.3, and most doctoral programs require minimum GPAs of 3.3 or 3.5. Course Quality Can Trump Grade! Not all grades are the same, though. Admissions committees study the courses taken: a B in Advanced Statistics is worth more than an A in Introduction to Pottery In many cases, its better to have a lower GPA composed of solid challenging courses than a high GPA based on easy courses Admissions committees study your transcript and examine your overall GPA as well as the GPA for the courses relevant to the programs to which youre applying Ensure that youre taking the right courses for the graduate program to which you plan to apply Admissions committees also understand that applicants grade point averages often cant be meaningfully compared. Grades can differ among universities: an A at one university may be a B+ at another
(Especially if you do not have the best grades or do not do well on standardized tests!) If your G.P.A. is a bit lower than the stated admissions minimum, or if you simply don’t do well on standardized tests, there are ways you can increase your chances of getting into a particular grad school. Zero in on a key faculty member whose work particularly intrigues you. Contact the professor via letter or e-mail, and discuss your interest in getting involved with her work. Try to arrange an in-person interview. If the faculty member is impressed with your passion for the subject matter, he/she may recommend that you be accepted into the programs Find out what institutions recently received research grants from government or corporate entities. Chances are that the program is looking for qualified students to carry out the research for which that money was intended. If you express your interest(s) in the specific program, it may help you get accepted. If you are interested in obtaining a professional degree, make sure your application reflects your professional accomplishments. Demonstrate that you have been active in professional associations or attended conferences in your field. Publish an article with a faculty member or contribute to his/her original research. Research satellite programs that are held off-campus. It may be easier to get into the program of your choice at a less popular site. Request an interview if it isn’t already required. Sometimes it is easier to sell yourself in person than on paper.