Why Graduate School?

Why go to graduate school?


  • Graduate school constitutes an advanced program of study focused on a particular academic discipline.
  • Graduate degrees are often required for some higher level technical positions in industry, government, and academia.
  • Compared to undergraduate studies, graduate students take one to two discipline-specific courses each semester and expectations regarding the quality and quantity of academic work are greater
  • Graduate degrees are available in almost any subject and should be selected based on your career objectives
  • Master's degrees are usually completed by full-time students in 2 years. Following completion of a Master’s Degree, students can seek employment, apply to professional schools, or continue to a Doctoral Degree Program.
  • Doctoral degrees are the highest degrees possible. They usually require the creation of new knowledge via independent research on a focused issue. Doctoral degrees typically take 3-4 years to complete if a student already has a Master’s Degree or 5-7 years to complete without a Master’s Degree. Doctoral Degree recipients are eligible for highly-skilled jobs related to their field of study.


How to choose a graduate school?

  • Identify a broad discipline that you are interested in studying. For example, in the animal science field, this might be poultry nutrition, avian immunology, cattle reproduction, or equine genomics.
  • Find the UD faculty member(s) most closely related to that discipline and ask them where are the best programs or faculty in the discipline in which you want to study
  • Go to a research journal in the discipline in which you want to study and look for recent research papers you find interesting and see who the authors are.
    • For example – you could go to the Journal of Animal Science and look up “Ruminant Nutrition” and see who the professors studying ruminant nutrition are.
    • The address (college) of the corresponding authors is usually at the bottom of the first page. Corresponding authors are those people who directed the research and thus sponsored the graduate students.
    • Follow up by visiting the potential research mentor’s webpage to learn more about his/her research program.
  • Once you have some names of potential research mentors, look up some of their research papers published in journals and visit their website to get an understanding of the full scope of research they do in their laboratories
  • You can also consult sites such as these for researching graduate and professional schools. These are particularly useful if considering a graduate program outside of the animal or food sciences:
    • Peterson’s Graduate Schools
    • US News, Best Graduate Schools
  • Reputation of the Faculty – What are their academic degrees/credentials and research specialties? How many research articles have they published within the past few years? Look at faculty websites if available.
  • Quality of the Program – This is measured by many different factors, many of which are mentioned below. You may choose to look at graduate school rankings to help you assess a program’s quality.
  • Financial Costs – What are the opportunities for fellowships, assistantships, or scholarships? What other sources of financial aid are available?
  • Admission Requirements – GPA test scores, undergraduate coursework, undergraduate GPA, specific entrance examinations, etc.
  • Facilities – Consider the quality of on-site research facilities.
  • Geographic Location – Will studying in a particular location help you meet personal or professional goals?

Junior Year

  • Identify a discipline you would like to study
  • Begin researching available programs
  • Request promotional materials
  • Visit schools’ websites
  • Talk to faculty/alumni/current students in the program
  • Start exploring financial aid resources
  • Sign up for required standardized test and take a practice test
  • Identify potential letter writers
  • Take the required standardized test

Senior Year

Summer and Fall Semester

  • Email potential research mentors to enquire whether they will be accepting new students
  • Write the first draft of your statement of purpose
  • Request your letters of recommendation from faculty
  • Order official transcripts
  • Write final draft of statement of purpose
  • Complete and mail your applications
  • Apply for aid available through program; assistantships, fellowships, scholarships, etc.

Spring Semester

  • Complete and submit financial aid applications
  • Visit prospective campuses if possible, and talk to faculty/students to help you make your final decision
  • Follow-up with schools to make sure your file is complete
  • After receiving acceptance from the school of your choice, send in the required deposit, and contact other schools and decline acceptances
  • Write thank you notes to people who helped you