For Students, Alumni, and Employers

How to Get Started

The typical process of applying to graduate school involves several steps across many months of time. Consider following these general guidelines to begin your journey.

Start early

Earn a Masters, Doctorate, JD, or MD degree. If you want to go right from Bachelors to Masters or Doctorate without a break, you will need to apply at least one year in advance. But it is never too late to go on to graduate school, even if you take a break.

Explore graduate school options

Think about the type of job you want and then think about which degrees would work. Look at education requirements on jobs to see what they ask for. There is not just one degree for each job out there. Plan to apply to 10–15 schools if not more. It is best to start your graduate school search as early as possible.

Review application requirements

Visit the universities website to learn more about cost, length of program, application process, and deadlines. Download applications from websites or call and have them sent. This will help you know exactly what will be needed. In the bookstore you can do some research on U.S. News and World Reports Magazine as to detailed statistics on scores upon entrance or ask the schools' admissions counselors. Once you have applications, put them in order by deadlines and mark your schedule to keep track of when things are due.

Complete entrance exams

Most programs require the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, or other tests for entrance. Make sure to find out which test is needed for your program. Some programs will waive these tests if you have a high GPA.

Write your essay

It's never too early to write your essay or personal statement. The career center library has books and handouts with samples. Make sure to have a few different people review your essay.

  • Log in to, then go to the Document Library for additional tips and samples.

Meet with an admission counselor

Contact colleges and universities and ask if they have information meetings or campus tours. Try to set up a meeting or phone consultation with an admission counselor. This can help your chances of getting in. Also talk to financial aid and career centers to get a feel for what they offer and if they are service-oriented.

Prepare your letters of recommendation

Most graduate schools require multiple letters of recommendation as part of your application, and some schools require that they are submitted confidentially. See our Letters of Recommendation page for details.

Apply and see where you are admitted

Once you apply and get responses back, you will have a decision to make. This decision on where to go to graduate school should be based on the classes, how long the program lasts, location and campus, and where you feel you will fit in best so you can excel in your program.

For assistance, call (805) 493-3200 or contact Cynthia Smith at