Graduate School FAQs

Find out the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about applying to graduate school.

1. Is graduate school right for me?

There are many reasons to apply to graduate school from an opportunity to research your favorite topic from your undergraduate degree or to fast forward your career to becoming an entrepreneur or academic.

All of these and more are fantastic reasons to apply to graduate school.

2. I really want to apply to graduate school but I haven’t got a clue where to start?

Don’t worry, this is normal and most people feel like this.

Deciding to continue your studies at graduate level is a big decision and a brilliant one to make.

Our application guide supports you through the whole process from the first tentative baby steps of deciding what topics to study and choosing a graduate school, through the application timelines and admissions tests, to the final big footsteps of your application interview and gaining a graduate school scholarship.

3. How do I decide which graduate school to apply to?

Making lists and online research is a great place to start. List the graduate schools that appeal to you for whatever reason and make a list of the topics you want to study. Now go online and start matching your topics to the graduate schools to compile a shorter list.

This list may still be quite long so start prioritizing it according to categories e.g. meeting entry requirements, supporting your career plans, feedback from alumni, campus facilities and resources and online league table rankings. This should then give you a list of 3 to 5 graduate schools, all of which are worth a visit so you can see for yourself which ones appeal to you the most.

For more information, please see our dedicated Choosing A Grad School section.

4. How soon do I need to apply to graduate school?

It’s best to start as soon as you can and give yourself as much time as possible. In fact, in the March/April before you send in your application, start taking any graduate school admission tests that you can. This gives you time for re-sits in the summer and early autumn should you need them.

In September/October start drafting your admission application and essay. Make sure you plan in time for proofing and rewrites etc., and gather your letters of recommendation from your faculty staff.

This will mean that your application and essay are fully completed and checked in time for the Christmas holidays, allowing your application to be submitted in the new year before the January deadline.

5. What graduate school admission tests do I need to take?

There is no way around it, you do need to take a standard entrance test to show the admission tutors that you can cope with graduate school level of studies.

These tests are standard across key subject areas so comparisons can be made between applicants.

You must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) on verbal and quantitative reasoning and analytical writing.

In addition, if you’re studying a particular subject you will need to take an additional test as well. LSAT for law students, MCAT for medical, DAT for dental and GMAT for business students.

Our GRE guide highlights all the tips you’ll need to succeed.

6. Why do I need letters of recommendation with my application?

Graduate schools receive lots of application from students wanting to continue their studies so they need to ensure that they choose the right applicants.

Having an independent view of how a student learns and studies, from a tutor who’s taught them during their undergraduate studies, is vital.

A tutor’s letter of recommendation has a lot of weight behind it for graduate schools, so it really does pay to get on well with your tutors and respect them. You never know when you may need their support later on. It’s your decision which tutors you ask to write a letter of recommendation, so choose wisely.

7. Why do graduate schools need my college transcript?

You must arrange with your college for an official transcript of your undergraduate studies to be sent to all the graduate schools you’re applying to.

The college must send this themselves, you can’t. It needs to be official and bear the college seal. It provides the graduate school with your confirmed GPA (Grade Point Average), coursework breadth, grades in your major and your performance patterns.

This is the college view and it should confirm the info you’ve put in your application is correct.

8. What does it mean by GPA?

Your Grade Point Average is the average results of all the grades you’ve achieved during your degree It is calculated on a 4-point scale with 4 being the highest and 0 the lowest achievement.

9. What is a personal statement?

This is a vital part of your graduate school application. This is where you showcase your skills and talents and wow the graduate admission tutors with how awesome you are and why they really need your expertise and ability on their program.

Check out our personal statements guide for all the top tips on writing your graduate personal statement as well as example statements to steer you in the right direction.

10. I need help with my admissions essay?

If you can remember back to when you wrote your undergraduate admission essay, many of the same tips apply now.

Preparation, planning and proofreading; allow time to prepare, brainstorm topic ideas choosing the one you can write about the most, write honestly and with integrity, give yourself plenty of time for edits and rewrites, and ask others to be a critical friend and proofread/sense check for you.

11. How do I prepare for my admission interview?

Research and preparation are key. Research the graduate school and the style of interviews they hold, research their values and ethos on their website and ask existing graduate students questions about their course.

Prepare your answers to core interview questions such as ‘Why do you want to study at this graduate school?’ or ‘What are your career plans?’

Also prepare your positive body language, your dress code and questions you want to ask the admission tutors. Our graduate school interview tips and advice gives you a more in-depth guide.

12. What fees will I have to pay to study at graduate school?

Graduate school fees different enormously for a variety of reasons; the subject chosen (medicine versus art history), the level of graduate degree (MSC or doctorate), the prestige of the school itself (Ivy league versus a small mid-west university) and the cost of living in the geographical area.

Average tuition fees alone can be $30,000 per year but there are lots of ways graduate schools can support you financially with this cost. Chat to the individual graduate school for advice.

13. Can I apply for a scholarship to fund my graduate studies?

Yes, you can. Graduate school scholarships are quite readily available and universities are actively encouraging students to apply for scholarships.

The types of scholarships available are increasing all the time. Find out more in our scholarships guide.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying to graduate school, please see: