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How to Get Into Grad School

If you want to figure out how to get into grad school, there are some things you can do ahead of time to plan. Here’s what you need to know.

After you finish your undergraduate degree, you might consider moving on to grad school. Attending grad school can help you take your education to the next level and might increase your salary.

If you decide that attending grad school is your next step in life, it’s important to be prepared. Getting into graduate school can be more difficult than getting into an undergraduate program. Here’s what you need to know about how to get into grad school.

Is getting into grad school difficult?

Whether you get into grad school depends on several factors. Some things to consider as you apply for grad school are:

  • Academic performance: You don’t need a perfect GPA to get into grad school. However, you normally need to meet minimum standards, and they are usually stricter than those that are required to get into undergrad.
  • Extracurricular activities: Many grad schools like to see that you’re “well rounded.” That includes activities and extracurriculars that reflect your ability to balance a schedule and your life. Additionally, extra activities that relate to your preferred graduate program of study can make a difference.
  • Grad program you select. Some programs are harder to get into than others, depending on the school and the specific field of study. Getting into a prestigious grad program at a private university might be harder than getting into a program at a public university. Additionally, there are more requirements for getting into medical school than entering an MBA program.
  • Recommendations. On top of filling out an application — a process that usually includes a CV and various personal and purpose statements — you will need recommendations. You likely need at least three people to submit letters on your behalf. That requires developing relationships during undergrad so you can call on people to provide these letters.

And, of course, once you figure out what you need to get into grad school, you need a way to pay for it. Chances are that you will need to get some type of loan to help you cover the cost. While there are federal student loans, they might not be enough to cover your school costs, especially if you get a more expensive degree. Turning to Juno for graduate student loans can help you leverage the power of numbers to get better deals and save money on interest.

Tips for getting into grad school

If you’re trying to figure out how to get into grad school, there are some things you can do ahead of time to plan.

Research programs early

Don’t wait until your senior year of undergrad to start looking at grad schools. Begin researching and refining your list during your junior year or even in the last half of your sophomore year. Find out the program requirements and plan accordingly. 

If you don’t have a specific list of grad schools as early as your freshman year, it can still be a time to plan ahead. Think about how your academic performance can impact your ability to get into grad school and consider extracurricular activities that can enhance your experience.

Use your school’s career services resources

Most colleges and universities have a career services department that can provide you with insights into planning a course of study that will prepare you for grad school. You can find out more about different programs, attend grad school fairs, get help with your CV and other materials, and connect with different admissions officials.

Go beyond the minimum requirements

Do more than just take the classes required to graduate in your major. Think about what might look good to a grad school. If you can show your commitment to an area of study, you’ll be more likely to get into the grad program of your choice.

Additionally, you can increase your chances of being accepted by looking for work and internship opportunities that align with your preferred field of study. Joining professional societies and clubs as well as getting involved with community service can help your chances. 

The closer your experiences are to your chosen grad program requirements, the more likely you are to get in.

Create meaningful relationships

While completing your undergraduate studies, make sure you create meaningful relationships. Get mentorship from professors and instructors in your major department. If you have an internship, make an effort to go above and beyond and maintain those relationships even after you finish. Those supervisors and instructors are most likely to provide you with letters of recommendation and serve as references.

Don’t forget to network. Get in contact with professors in the grad program and network with alumni of your target grad school. Getting to know others can help you create connections that can prove advantageous as you apply for grad programs. 

Apply to multiple programs

If possible, apply to multiple programs. Remember that there are fewer slots available for grad students than undergrad students. As a result, it might be harder to get into your first-choice program. 

As you apply to multiple programs, be sure you understand the requirements and the deadlines. Write a personal statement, purpose statement and CV that can be tweaked as you go along. You don’t need to rewrite each piece of your application for each school, but you do need to make sure it is tailored a little bit to each program.

Bottom line

Getting into grad school and paying for it can feel like a daunting task. You’re better off starting to plan ahead of time. Consider which programs you’re most interested in and then find out the requirements as early as possible. If you know you want to go to grad school, you’ll need to begin preparing in your sophomore year so that you have extra activities and experiences to help you.

You also need to begin thinking about how you will pay for it. Fellowships and scholarships can help, but even so, you might need loans for graduate school. When you finish, it can make sense to refinance your student loans so you have a more manageable payment. 

Plan ahead so that you get into a program that works for you — and that you can afford.

Miranda Marquit

Written By

Miranda Marquit

Miranda has 10+ years of experience covering financial markets for various online and offline publications, including contributions to Marketwatch, NPR, Forbes, FOX Business, Yahoo Finance, and The Hill. She is the co-host of the Money Tree Investing podcast and she has a Master of Arts in Journalism from Syracuse University


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