Information for Students

Choosing to Attend Graduate School:

While in undergraduate school, you spent some time gaining knowledge in your chosen major and through your curriculum gained skills and knowledge that prepared you for graduate school or the world of work.

As a Graduate Student you will be further prepared for your career interest through specialized courses, research and/or internships and by acquiring practical professional skills and an in-depth knowledge of your field of study. To complete a graduate program, usually some type of original research in the form of a thesis or dissertation or a final comprehensive exam is required.

If you have decided that graduate school is for you, you then need to decide if you would like to attend immediately after graduation, or wait a year or two. There are advantages to both choices.

In looking at the advantages to proceeding directly on, there is more continuity of learning between undergraduate and graduate school and you will probably still be in the “studying mode”. Secondly, many students find it is easier to finance graduate school when there aren’t other major financial obligations such as marriage, mortgages and children. Undergraduate loans can be deferred while attending school as well. Lastly, if you are enthusiastic and certain about a career decision where graduate school is needed, attending right away will quicken the time you can enter the profession.

Taking time off can give you the information needed to determine exactly what program you need for a particular field. In addition, some graduate schools won’t accept students without some prior work experience. If you choose to work after finishing your Bachelor’s, decide how important graduate school is to you and make plans that will accommodate your educational goals.

To help you make your decision, the Council of Historically Black Graduate Schools (CHBGS) has provided answers for several frequently asked questions about Graduate School.

Frequently Asked Questions

What degrees are offered in graduate or professional school?
The highest earned academic or professional degree is the doctorate. Some graduate institutions allow graduate students to enter a doctoral program directly from their Bachelor’s degree, without completing a master’s degree. Your chance to do this may depend your academic record.

Academic doctoral degrees include the:
Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)
*These degrees require conducting original research and a written dissertation and trains you to be a scholar or researcher.
Examples of Professional doctoral degrees include:
J.D. (Doctor of Jurisprudence) Ð LawDrPh. (Doctor of Public Health)
M.D. (Doctor of Medicine)D.Eng (Doctor of Engineering)
D.B.A. (Doctor of Business Administration)
DSW (Doctor of Social Work)

The next highest earned academic or professional degree is the master’s degree. Academic masters degrees include the:
M.A. (Master of Arts)
M.S. (Master of Science)
* These degrees are offered in most fields and may require a non-thesis or thesis option in preparation for a doctoral degree. Many doctoral programs give credit for graduate work you have completed at the master’s level, depending on the program involved.

Examples of Master’s Degrees in certain fields include the:
M.Arch (Master of Architecture)
M.S.W. (Master of Social Work)
M.F.A (Master of Fine Arts)
M.P.H (Master of Public Health)
M.B.A (Master of Business Administration)

What are some advantages of attending graduate school?
Many people pursue an advanced degree as a means to higher salaries. Additionally, people with advanced degrees have the credentials that make them eligible for upper-level and specialized positions, which have higher salaries to match increased responsibilities. Graduate school also provides invaluable opportunities to pursue in-depth research in a field of interest, to study with specialists, and to improve methodological and writing skills. The rigor of graduate studies also offers a greater breadth of knowledge and enhanced critical thinking abilities that enrich your overall life. Lastly, graduate school is extremely challenging, which, like all challenges, serves as an opportunity for growth and for attaining your personal best.

What field should I study?
Going to graduate school usually involves a career choice. Graduate school is of most value and benefit to you when you know what you are interested in studying. You really need to be enthused in this career area to be able to keep up with the demands of graduate life. Take some time to investigate your field of interest before applying. Talk to alumni, professors or professionals in the field and read resources on the subject. Also, do a thorough self-assessment and to spend time trying to identify your goals, values, strengths, and interests.

Is an advanced degree required to enter a particular profession?
In many professional fields such as medicine, law, psychology, and education, an advanced degree is a must. For others, a graduate degree can enhance your earning power in an occupation and can influence how far and fast you will advance in your field. Most human service fields are examples of this. Your chances of obtaining increased responsibility in your job will be enhanced through obtaining an advanced degree.
How do I find a graduate school that addresses my interest?
Choose a school that emphasizes some specialty that you are interested in. Ask faculty members, look at catalogs, check out the Web, and see which faculty are teaching at the grad schools you are considering and what sort of courses are being offered. Be sure to look closely at the member institutions of the Council of Historically Black Graduate Schools (CHBGS) listed on this website ( for opportunities to attend graduate school.

Call or write to universities; they will send you FREE information packets! Be sure to ask for both general admission requirements and for specific program requirements in the particular department to which you would be applying. Many schools have separate applications for admission into the graduate school in general and for the particular department. Contact officials of graduate student organizations including, the National Black Graduate Students Association (NBGSA) at, about the graduate schools that their members attend.

Another consideration in selecting a school is its geographic location and where that you would like to see yourself living, working or settling down.

What kind of financial options do I have to pay for graduate school?
You may be eligible to receive a grant, fellowship or assistantship which will cover all or a substantial amount of the cost of Graduate School. Students who are appointed as teaching assistants (TAs) or graduate research assistants (GRAs) are usually entitled to receive in-state resident tuition. Certain fellowships also entitle the student to in-state tuition rates.

Many fellowships and scholarships are outright grants or subsidies and require no service to the department or university. Assistantships, however, are forms of part-time employment for services in a department. Teaching assistantships may require teaching a class or assisting a professor by grading papers, acting as a laboratory assistant and so forth. Research assistants ordinarily work on research projects conducted by program faculty. Aside from receiving a monthly stipend for part-time work an assistantship also covers your tuition expenses. Obtaining loans are also a possibility. Do not be afraid of loans. With an advanced degree you will be qualified for higher starting salaries than if you only have a B.A., and loans can be an investment in a more secure financial future.

Also, contact the schools you are interested in attending and research what other types of funding are available for graduate students.

What is the length of time required to complete a degree?
The average time depending on the degree can take anywhere from one to seven years. If you attend full time, a master’s degree can be earned in as little as one to two years. A doctoral degree can usually take anywhere from three to six years to complete. Actual time to earn a degree can vary due to program requirements and differences among students.

Do I need to attend Graduate School full-time or can I study part-time?
Full-time graduate study often provides a more supportive environment that can help you complete your degree and allows you to interact with the colleagues in your program at a closer level. Some programs require that you go full-time and it may be difficult or not possible to get some types of financial aid without attending full-time.

Attending school part-time, though, does allow you the chance to work in the field earn money and complete your degree during a longer time period. Another option may be working for a corporation that is willing to pay for graduate school. To accommodate working students most graduate courses are late afternoon and/or evening courses that meet once a week.

Do I have the personal qualities and skills that are needed to be successful in graduate school?
Although there is no ideal profile for the successful graduate student, there are some qualities that are important in order to make it through productively. Some of these skills include intelligence, initiative and self-discipline. Most graduate programs assume that students will maintain at least a 3.0 GPA. Time management skills, being focused and persistence are also important qualities. In addition, the ability to establish good working relationships with your fellow students, faculty and internship mentors is also important.

Can I take courses before being accepted into a program?
Usually this option is called a Non-Degree Program Student. There may be limits on the number of hours one can take in this classification. If you are applying to a particular program and you missed the deadline or you know that you will not complete the admission process (i.e. lacking GRE scores or letters of recommendation) in time for registration for the next term, you may request to be admitted as a non-degree student for the upcoming term and still have your original application processed for the degree program for the following term.

Applying to Graduate School

How do I apply?
Depending on the graduate school and the degree program to which you are applying, you will typically be required to submit:A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. 4-year institution.Official transcripts from each college or university you have previously attended.Official test scores from taking the GRE, GMAT, or other required official tests.Letters of RecommendationPersonal StatementA completed Application for Admission.Application fee.Additional supporting documents as required by your department (writing samples, portfolios, resumes, cv’s).

What is the most important part of the application?
There is not one single most important part of the application. When reviewing an application, admission decisions are made based on all the materials submitted. Educational background, grades, work experience (if any), GMAT/GRE/MAT scores, letters of recommendation, and the statement of objectives and career goals are all considered.

What is a Letter of Intent or Personal Statement? This is usually a 1-2 page letter where you spend some time describing yourself and your reasons for pursuing graduate school. This letter should explicitly describe your reasons for applying to this particular graduate school, how your acceptance will benefit both you and the school, and what attracted you to this program. It is important to type your personal statement and check it carefully for errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Who should I ask to write Letters of Recommendation? Persons who know your abilities academically and professionally are the best people to write your letters of recommendation. The better someone knows you and your abilities, the more capable that person will be to write an effective letter of recommendation. The letters should be both academic and professional.

What is the Graduate Records Exam (GRE)? The GRE, which stands for Graduate Record Examination, is a standardized exam designed to assess an individual’s analytical, writing and quantitative abilities. The results are usually good for 5 years; that is, you could take them now, and use the scores to apply for grad school two years from now. You can also re-take them later and use the second scores to apply for grad school if your scores improve. Many degree programs required the GRE as part of the documents compiled for review by admissions officers or committees.

How can I receive more information about Graduate Entrance Exams?

Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)
Educational Testing Service
P.O. Box 6000
Princeton, NJ 08541-6000 USA
(866) 473-4373 or (609) 771-7670

Graduate Management
Admissions Test (GMAT)

Graduate Management Admission Council
1600 Tysons Blvd., Ste. 1400
McLean, VA 22102
Telephone: 1-703-749-0131
Fax: 1-703-749-0169

Miller Analogies Test (MAT)
The Psychological Corporation
Controlled Test Center
555 Academic Court
San Antonio, TX 78204
(800) 622-3231 or (210) 921-8802
Preparation for Getting Accepted

Start NOW as an Undergraduate to make yourself a desirable graduate student. Possessing a Bachelor’s degree is not the only requirement to get into graduate school; you should possess the skills, interest and motivation to succeed. Here are some suggestions of what you can do as an undergraduate student to prepare for graduate school:
Make good grades. You do not have to be a genius, but you do have to be a good student. For many schools, a 3.0 GPA or better is expected. Some schools may let you in with less, but you may find yourself ineligible for financial awards.

Cultivate a background relevant for your graduate interests.
Get involved outside of the classroom. Volunteer to help on research projects, or volunteer to help the department in areas of interest to you. Attend regional and national meetings and conferences in your field and join honor societies.
Participate in a summer research program at another university or institute.Take graduate coursework as a senior
Graduate schools are attracted to students who have mature experience and demonstrated professionalism.

Timeline to Prepare for Graduate School

Freshman – Sophomore years

Join student organizations
Begin to gain volunteer experience
Explore externship/internship opportunities
Get good grades!

Junior Year
Discuss programs with advisors/ career counselors/ faculty members
Request and review program materials via catalogs or web
Register for and take graduate admission tests
Visit the schools of interest
Attend Career and Graduate School Fairs
Research financial aid information
Start your statement of purpose
Keep your career options open

Summer before Senior Year
Have your statement of purpose reviewed by an advisor/career counselor/ faculty member
Take graduate admission tests
Narrow list of schools and request application materials
Visit the schools (if not already)
Finalize your credential file/ letters of evaluation
Request a student copy of transcript to assist with application completion
Keep your career options open

Fall Semester – Senior year
Finalize your statement of purpose
Get letters of Recommendation
Complete and mail application materials/request OFFICIAL transcripts be sent
Complete the financial aid forms

Spring Semester – Senior Year
Attend interviews if necessary
Discuss your offers with an advisor/ career counselor faculty member
Send updated transcripts (if required by schools)Inform advisors/career counselors/ faculty of your future plans
Learning About Various Graduate Programs/Fields of Study

Best Places to Start

These comprehensive sites provide you with many of the tools you need to begin the process of researching graduate/professional schools.

Guidelines for Writing Your Personal Statement

The personal statement is your opportunity to tell the admissions officers why they should admit you into their program. Check out the sites listed below to find guidance on writing the personal statement and quick tips to ensure your personal statement is a positive contribution to your application.

Websites for Financial Aid Information

To search for scholarship, loan, or other financial aid awards, visit the sites below. Also, remember to check with the Financial Aid Office at the schools to which you are applying.