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Choosing a Grad School

This guide includes some resources that can assist you with making decisions about applying to grad school programs.

What is Graduate School?

What is Graduate School?
Graduate school constitutes an advanced program of study focused on a particular academic discipline or profession. Traditionally, graduate school has been "academic" (centered on generating original research in a particular discipline), but it may be "professional" (centered on developing skills and knowledge for a specific profession), or a combination of both.

How is Graduate School Different from Undergraduate Education?
Compared to undergraduate studies, graduate school is a more concentrated course of study and expectations regarding the quality and quantity of your academic work are greater. Graduate programs also entail:

  • focused studies in a specific discipline with fewer elective possibilities
  • rigorous evaluation of your work by professors and peers
  • smaller classes with much student interaction
  • work experience via internships, teaching, or research
  • production of original research is often required

What Graduate Degrees are available?
Graduate degrees are available in almost any subject and come in three levels-Master, Specialist, and Doctorate. Depending on the graduate school program and degree level you desire, your program requirements and length will vary.

  • Specialist degrees are usually earned in addition to a master's degree and will require additional coursework, training, or internship experience. This type of degree usually prepares students for professional certification or licensing requirements (e.g., Ed.S. for school principal or credential for becoming a teacher).
  • Master's degrees are offered in many fields of study. Some are designed to lead to a doctoral degree while others are the "terminal" degree for a profession (e.g., Master of Library Science; Master of Business Administration). For full-time students, completing a master's degree usually takes 2 years.
  • Doctoral degrees are the highest degrees possible. They usually require the creation of new knowledge via independent research - be it basic or applied. Including the time it takes to write and defend a dissertation, this degree may take anywhere from 5-7 years to complete.

Is Graduate School The Right Fit?

Before making the decision to go to graduate school, it's a good idea to look at what may be behind your decision. Here's some resources to help you evaluate whether graduate school is the right direction for you now:

Resources for Exploring Grad School

Daniel Smith of the SSU McNair Scholars Program advises prospective applicants to do the following before applying to a graduate school program:

1. Get research experience

2. Interact with at least two professors in your major outside of class

3. Look for internship/volunteer experiences related to your long term interests

4. Set up a regular study schedule for the GRE several months in advance

5. In order to determine your fit in a graduate program, read faculty profiles and bios, and look for specific matches in the description of the program. [See more on determining your fit here.]