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Career Development Center

» Considering Graduate School

Continuing your education through grad school is a big decision. With heavier coursework loads and increased specialization subject matter, much more independent work and self-discipline is required.  However, furthering your education does put you ahead in your field of interest.  Explore this section to answer questions you may have about graduate school. Use the information you gather to investigate the possibilities and requirements expected of you throughout this process.  

+ - Researching Programs


Search early, allow yourself at least six months to break down the process of researching, information gathering, networking, and visiting campuses before the application process even begins.

Research professions, consider your career choices, the job outlooks upon graduation, network with people in fields you are considering & have an informational interview with them.

Begin your search with a long list of grad programs (at least 20), and begin listing the positives and negatives on each programs.  As negative grow, some grad programs will drop off your list while new ones will be added – it all comes down to time and research to learn about what you like and what you want.

Document your pros and cons into categories and keep it all in a spreadsheet so you can refer back and also to keep your research organized.

The accessibility of the department you are applying to, send an email to the department you are applying to at every University asking a question about the program that is not offered online.  The idea is to see how quickly the department responds to you, and if they are investing in your interest.  This will demonstrate how accessible they will be to you after you become a student at their university. 

Talk to people who know the program, the university, the research, the internship opportunities, et cetera.  Talk to the students, the alumni, and the faculty whenever possible!  Use your LinkedIn network to search for common undergraduate alumna who also are connected with the graduate program you are researching.

Campus visit, you still need to find a place that will fit with you and the kind of environment you want to live in.  Consider the accessibility of people you want to network with professionally, the job market in that city and state, the weather, the cost of living, the safety and environment of the community – all of these are critical conditions when you are committing yourself to living near a university for the next 2-4 years…or more!



Use this guide to help you when selecting your grad school.

+ - Graduate and Professional School Visits

You need to find a place that will fit with you and the kind of environment you want to live in.  Consider the accessibility of people you want to network with professionally, the job market in that city and state, the weather, the cost of living, the safety and environment of the community – all of these are critical conditions when you are committing yourself to living near a university for the next 2-4 years…or more!

Points to consider when visiting a campus

  • Take a campus tour
  • Explore the city or town
  • Visit the financial aid office
  • Make an appointment for the admissions interview
  • Sit in on a lecture if possible
  • Informational interviews with current students



Find information on programs, admissions, facilities and expenses to help you compare schools. Virtual tours are available for some schools. You can request information on the school profile or link directly to the school's website as well as access articles from GradSource magazine on all aspects of graduate study.

Visiting the campus of your target school(s) can be helpful in your search for the right school.  It also can give the admissions office a stronger sense of who you are as a person, beyond what they’ll glean from your application.

+ - Application Timeline

Your consideration for applying to a graduate school program should become a natural part of building your professional self as early as your sophomore year. 

If you are interested in going straight into a graduate program after your undergraduate degree, then you must seriously begin the process of investigation into grad school by your junior year. 

For students interested in working for a year after they graduate and then going to graduate school – it would still be the recommendation to begin researching programs by the end of your junior year. 

The process of applying to a graduate program is not an easy one, and once you have committed yourself to continuing your education and enhancing your professional worth – every decision you make will become a deciding factor in your application process.  That year spent working can be your most useful tool in building a strong resume to justify your admission to a selective program.  Make sure to use the resources relevant to you under each of the tabs.



+ - Application Process

The application process will be unique dependent upon the type of graduate school you decide to apply to.  In the additional sections under Graduate School you will have access to the unique processes for law school, MBA programs, and medical fields.  The general commonalities that they each have is in completing admission requirements, and the process of completing (and passing) entrance exams.

Typical Admission Requirements 

  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution of higher education.
  • Some minimum G.P.A. in the last two years of undergraduate study (Minimum generally ranges from 2.75 to 3.0 on a 4 point scale)
  • Some preparation in the proposed field of study including an acceptable G.P.A. on undergraduate coursework in the proposed field of study.
  • Experience which is relevant to the proposed field of study. Additional Requirements may be:
  • Admissions tests - GRE, MAT, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interview
  • Special admission requirements: work sample or portfolio

Entrance Exams

Most colleges require an SAT or ACT score for admission, and similarly, most graduate programs require a standardized test score as part of the application procedure. Most tests are designed to measure general skills and knowledge over a long period of time. Before you take any graduate school test, make sure you know which test your school or program requests.

The Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE and the GMAT, is gradually phasing out its paper-based testing and moving to computer-based testing. In fact, April 1999 is the last scheduled paper-based GRE General Test. The LSAT, MCAT, and GRE Subject Tests are still paper-based. The advantage to the computer-based testing is convenience (year-round testing), quicker turnaround of scores (see scores immediately after the exam and before deciding where to send them), and schools receive them more quickly (10-15 days after testing). ETS says that scores between paper-based and computer-based tests are comparable. Testing time also is shorter because as you answer each question, CBT analyzes your answers and make sure that successive questions are right for you. This avoids wasting time answering questions that are too difficult or too easy. Because of this system, you cannot skip a question or backtrack to change and answer.

+ - Writing a Personal Statement

The personal statement is your one chance to tell an admissions committee how and why you have decided to pursue that degree at that university. 


  • Can you demonstrate and discuss a research agenda
  • What makes you different and unique from the other applicants applying who will have similar backgrounds as you
  • Are you highlighting your achievements compared to the opportunities life has given you (circumstances, challenges, and hardships)
  • Can you demonstrate substantial experiences with cultures other than your own
  • Can you prove through examples that you know yourself, what you want professionally, and how this graduate program is going to help you accomplish your goals


  • Read the prompt carefully and make sure you respond to each part in detail
  • Leave yourself a lot of time to write your essay
  • Understand that you will go through several drafts
  • Critique your grammar, structure and your word choice
  • Ask professors, advisors, family members, and peers to read and critique
  • Take advantage of your career educator in the Career Development Center
  • Research the department and the work of the professors in that department; tailor your personal statement to that department
  • Showcase your initiative, leadership, service to others, potential, etc.


  • Turn your resume or CV into a narrative and stop there
  • Use sloppy/lazy languages and/or abbreviations
  • Don’t be funny, ironic, or use an excess of metaphors and cliques
  • Don’t lie or inflate your experiences
  • Just assume that the reader will make the connection on what you are referring to in your writing – you must be explicit & offer explanations, i.e. follow through with your ideas



More than any other issues associated with writing the personal statement, most students struggle with creating a seamless flow in their writing.  Constraints of word count, page count, or questions open to interpretation are often the cause of many applicant frustrations. 

What is your main point/theme?

Focus on a value that has shaped/is shaping you into the person you are now.  Often focusing on a value means that you are discussing a broad topic related to an abstract quality such as: the desire to influence change, a commitment to change, or a mission based upon personal/professional ethics.

Choosing your focus point

Make a list of the experiences/anecdotes that you considering as your focus point/theme for your personal statement.  Then map out if you can easily tell this story in the parameter of space that the essay allows – can you tell your story in 500 words or less? Which experiences highlight your professional growth?  Demonstrates your professional passion? 

Transitioning between paragraphs

Students seem to struggle with this concept the most when writing personal statements.  The key is to have a strong focus point and use this point to frame the direction of each of your paragraphs.  Is your closing smoothly looping back to the opening of your personal statements?  Does each paragraph introduce a clean transition between each idea?  Are your transitions connecting the story you are trying to tell in a logical way?

The conclusion

Is your conclusion looping back to your opening statements?  Have you been able to describe the evolution of your focus point and connect it to the journey you want to continue as a graduate student at your chosen university?



Write for your audience

The audience who reads your personal statement will be the professors of that department, if they do not believe you are connecting background with goals, you application ends there.  Research the department you are applying for, investigate the backgrounds of professors & when possible – speak directly to their research and how you want to become involved.

When requesting a letter of recommendation

Bring the final draft of your personal statement to the professor/recommender so that they have the best information about what your goals and ambitions are.  Your personal statement can be a great tool for your recommender to write a well-tailored letter for you.

When applying to a licensed degree program (such as medicine)

The expectation is that you have a high GPA & test scores, extensive experience in building to your professional goal – including research, and that you have additional invested experiences in related fields. 

So, the personal statement is an opportunity to round out your profile beyond the “given”, and highlight the unique elements of you to stand out from the competition.  For example: where do you exemplify leadership experience, or community ties.

When applying to the field of humanities

The personal statement content should be concentrating on your academic background, interests, and professional goals.  Not your professional experiences or extracurricular.  Are you interested in & capable of conceiving & completing an in-depth and detailed research project and write the necessary literature.  This is your opportunity to seriously discuss your research agenda – your essay is being assessed for your writing style and your thought process.




  • Do the universities you are considering applying to have a dedicated military or veteran liaison/association to help you with the application process
  • Writing your personal statement is where you can really stand out; discuss how your military skills, background, and maturity can be a positive benefit to the university 

+ - Law School

Decided to apply for law school?  Congratulations on committing yourself to such a worthwhile professional direction!  Below is a list of resources to help you as you start researching the processes of application. 

Start with reviewing the Admissions tab and General Questions suggestions already located in the pages of the Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law.



  • Power Score (Explanation of application process and month by month timeline starting from senior year of undergrad. Also includes links for different steps of process like the essay, letters or rec, LSAT prep, etc.)
  • Princeton Review (Short overview of application process.  Gives link for tips on personal statement and information on LSAT (dates, free practice test, prep courses, etc.)
  • The Girl’s Guide to Law School (Helpful tips on tailoring your application and links to embedded with more information making sure your application is as competitive as possible.)
  • Admissions Dean (Really in-depth timeline of months starting from junior year of undergrad and gives steps for how to proceed in a 24-month application process.  Also offers extra links for guidance on other things needed for process (LSAT, essay, draft list of schools, etc.)
  • Law School Admissions Council (In-depth explanation of law school process.  Includes tabs on application, pre-application, what law schools look for in applications, financial aid, etc.)
  • LSAT Resources (Focuses solely on the LSAT and any resources possibly needed for it.)
  • LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) (The LSAT measures skills that are considered essential for success in law school: the reading and comprehension of complex text with accuracy and insight; the organization and management of information and the ability to draw reasonable inference from it; the ability to reason critically; and the analysis and evaluation of the reasoning and argument of others.)

+ - Business School

Applying to an MBA program can be a long process compromising several important steps beginning with choosing your program, filling out the extensive application, taking the GMAT or GRE, and selecting the program right for you.

 Start with reviewing the Admissions tab and General Questions suggestions already located in the pages of the Argyros School of Business and Economics.



  • HuffPosBusinesss (Closing the Gender Gap: Educating College Women about the GMAT and Business Careers)
  • Manhattan Prep (Month-by-month timeline outlining process and key things to get done for process (when to contact schools, GMAT testing, how to prepare, how to be an appealing candidate, etc.)
  • The Economist (Article on applying to MBA programs written by team of former directors of MBA programs across the country.  Four parts on first steps, GMAT and other tests, essays, letters of recommendation, etc.)
  • The GMAT (Brief timeline for process on applying to business school post-undergrad.)
  • (In-depth explanation of process of applying including general advice, tips on the essay, and how to prepare for the interview.)


+ - Medical School and Health Professionals

There are so many opportunities and specializations for students interested in pursuing a career in medicine as a health professional.  From pediatrics, to orthopedic, to the myriad of specializations associated with veterinary medicine and everything in between – there are endless opportunities available for those driven to succeed and the ambition to work through the application processes associated with such an honorable career.  The resources listed below are just the very beginning of option exploration for you.


  • MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test)

The MCAT is designed to assess whether you possess the foundation upon which to build a successful medical career. Though you certainly need to know content to do well, the stress is on thought process. Every section tests higher-order thinking skills such as analytical reasoning, abstract thinking and problem solving-skills that are essential for success in medical school. The test is made up of four timed sections.

Timeline for Applying to Medical School, MCAT: About the Medical College Admissions Test, Three Common Reasons for Medical School Rejectio,  4 Ways to Get an Edge on Medical School Admissions…and much more!

  • Kaplan Test Prep (Intimidated by applying to medical school?  Here are the 3 Phases of Applying to Medical School)

+ - Postgraduate Fellowships

Fellowships, scholarships and grants are generally financial awards for study and research beyond the baccalaureate degree. These can be awarded by private organizations, by academic department, or by institution.  Get more information by visiting our fellowships page. 

+ - Graduate Funding

Financing grad school can be confusing. Because there is so much variance, this page is designed to give you a quick overview of some of the most common terms you will encounter and provide a bibliography of sources for you to consult. Then, consult the financial aid offices and departments of the schools you plan to learn what to expect. For more information visit our graduate funding page. 

+ - Other Resources

Follow this link to Chapman University’s fellowships and scholarship listings page.

The Graduate Record Exam is the most widely used graduate school exam. The GRE General Test measures verbal, quantitative, and analytical abilities that are important for academic achievement. GRE Subject Tests sometimes are required and these measure achievement in a particular subject area and assume an undergraduate major or extensive background in that discipline. Please note that beginning in fall 1999 a GRE Writing Assessment will be offered. This test is separate from the GRE General and Subject tests.

Search from over 60,000 master degree, doctoral degree, and graduate certificate programs. Search by field of study, subject, graduate school or metro area nationwide and internationally. Create your own account to save program information, deadlines, and events.

Provides general graduate school and financial aid information and specific admission test information including practice tests and test preparation guidance.

  • Peterson’s Their Graduate Planner includes sections on how to get started in your graduate school search, find a school, prepare for tests, and pay for school.

Provides information on graduate admission tests, programs, school rankings, and scholarships; free online practice tests; application advice; and more.

More than 1,200 graduate programs in such disciplines as business, law, medicine, sciences social sciences and humanities, fine arts and more are ranked. Also includes articles on preparing and paying for graduate school, tips and statistics, and other topics

  • College Affordability Guide OUR MISSION: to provide clear, correct info and advice on the many options students have to reduce the cost of their degree, and to offer a fresh analysis of which colleges are doing the most to make high-quality education affordable

Breaks down online master’s programs in three helpful ways.

This page focuses explicitly on PhD programs online, with a number of resources and tools to help students take the next step toward a doctorate.