Career Center

Graduate School

Grad School: Should you go?

Students or alumni looking to take their education beyond a baccalaureate degree or into a professional program might find graduate school is the right move for them.

We can help you decide and offer information on what to consider and when to consider it.

Once you've decided to go, check out our Tips for Graduate School Success for help with managing and maneuvering through the graduate school application process and job search.


Junior year

  • Research graduate programs, talk to faculty and advisors about your plans to apply to graduate school, familiarize yourself with application procedures.

Summer after junior year

  • Register for the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, or other entrance exam (if required), start working on your application(s), confirm application deadlines.

Fall of senior year

  • Narrow choices, continue to work on applications, obtain letters of recommendation, take entrance exam again (if necessary), submit applications.

Winter break of senior year

  • Submit applications if you haven’t already done so.

Spring of senior year

  • Apply for financial aid (FAFSA), follow up with schools to confirm your applications were received, visit institutions that have accepted you, interview for assistantships and make your decision.



  • Where do you want to go?
  • What's the community like — total population, employment opportunities (for you and/or your partner), access to recreation or cultural activities, distance from major metropolitan areas, etc.

Institution/Program type

  • The type of institution may affect the number of faculty members in your program, the number of students admitted each year, level of competition for admission, funding opportunities, and other factors.
  • Do you want to be at a large national research institution? Regional university? Private institution?


  • Does the program meet your interest needs?
  • Is the program research-based or practice-based?
  • Do they require an assistantship, practicum, and/or internship?
  • Do they require a thesis and/or comprehensive exams?
  • Are you able to pursue a concentration or emphasis?
  • How many credit hours are required?
  • Is the program full-time or part-time?

Admission requirements

  • Some are more competitive while others may be more flexible.
  • What is the minimum GPA?
  • Do they require any specific undergraduate coursework or work experience?
  • Is an entrance exam required (and if so, is there a minimum score requirement)?
  • Do you need to submit a personal statement and/or references?


  • Tuition is an important factor, but not the only cost consideration.
  • How much will you pay each year?
  • Do out-of-state residents pay more?
  • Are there graduate assistantships or tuition waivers available?
  • What types of financial aid are available?

Class size/student-to-faculty ratio

  • How many students are admitted each year?
  • How many students will be in your classes?
  • How many faculty members teach in the program?
  • Small and larger programs each have benefits, so determine which is best for you.

How many schools should you apply to?

  • General recommendation is four to six graduate programs.
  • Apply to a few highly competitive.
  • Apply to a few “maybe/probably” schools you feel may be competitive but you should get into.
  • Apply to a few “safety” schools you feel you very likely would get into.

Find and Research Programs

Pre-professional programs

Pre-professional programs are not academic majors. Rather, they are areas of study designed to meet necessary pre-requisite courses for graduate or professional school as well as prepare you for any required entrance exams. In most cases, you will still need to complete a baccalaureate degree with a major.

Students should be aware of requirements selected by the institution to which they will transfer, and should meet with an academic adviser well versed in these requirements.

The St. Cloud State catalog outlines the advisor and suggested classes for these pre-professional programs:

Graduate School Application

Grad School: The Application Process

  • The basic application required for admission to the institution typically is submitted online.
  • It includes your demographic information, program of interest and academic information.
  • You also write a Personal Statement or Essay in which you share your background and goals. Some programs will give you a series of specific questions to answer, while others will allow you to write a more general statement.
  • Visit the Write Place for assistance.
  • The essay/statement is your chance to brag to the review committee about your accomplishments, defining experiences, goals and so on.
  • You also will need to send your transcripts.
  • Additional tips:

Graduate School Admissions Tests and Test Prep