Graduate School

Image of Student asking questions about graduate school

Graduate & Professional School


Analyze your motives for considering advanced study. Will attending graduate school help you develop your abilities and achieve your goals? A graduate degree is a prerequisite to entering certain careers, such as law, medicine and university teaching. Another motivation for attending graduate school is to receive further in-depth training and study in a subject that particularly interests you, either for purposes of career advancement or for personal satisfaction.

Attending graduate school should not be a way to postpone making a career decision. In fact, it should be the logical result of making a career decision. It is important that you explore and understand the careers in which you are interested and develop a clear idea of the position you want to pursue prior to choosing a graduate school.

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Graduate education delivers specialized knowledge in a concentrated area, with two basic degree types: academic and professional. An academic degree involves research and scholarship in a discipline. A professional degree provides training to acquire skills and knowledge for a particular profession.

There are three basic degree levels:

  • Master’s degrees are offered in almost every field, although some universities only offer doctoral programs in certain fields.
  • Specialist degrees are usually completed in addition to a master’s program and often require additional training or internship experience. This type of degree prepares you for professional certification or licensing.
  • Doctoral studies usually require original research for an academic program or practical application of knowledge and skills in a professional program.

upcoming career events:

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A graduate department's reputation rests heavily on the reputation of the faculty. In some disciplines, it is more important to study under someone well known than it is to study at a college or university with a prestigious name. Familiarize yourself with publications describing current research in your discipline. Find articles in professional journals and discover where the authors teach. Review several published graduate program ratings, such as the one published by the Conference Board of Associated Research Councils. 

What type of students enroll in the program? What are their average undergraduate G.P.A. and test scores? What are their academic abilities, achievements, skills, geographical representation and level of professional success upon completion of the program?

Is the institution financially stable? What kind of financial support does the program itself offer? How complete are the library collections, computer resources and other facilities? 

What is the purpose of the program? What are job placement and student advisement services like? What is the student/faculty ratio? Are there internships, assistantships and other experiential education opportunities available?

As an applicant to graduate school, you should understand the role that specialized accreditation plays in your field. The role of accreditation varies considerably from one discipline to another. In certain professional fields, it is a requirement to have graduated from an accredited program in order to be eligible for a license to practice. The federal government will sometimes make graduation from an accredited program a hiring requirement. In other fields, accreditation is not as important and there may be some excellent programs that are not accredited. 

If you are seriously interested in graduate study, do not be discouraged by a lack of finances. You should investigate and apply for all types of aid for which you may be eligible. Don't reject a school because it is expensive until you have learned what financial aid it can offer.

(Every institution has its own application process, as well as its own system for allotting aid. Therefore, you should communicate directly with each school that interests you.) Many schools use a needs analysis document such as the Graduate and Professional School Financial Aid Service (GAPSFAS) or the Financial Aid Form (FAF). Other schools use different needs analysis systems. Be sure you complete the correct forms. In addition, every school has a different deadline date for financial aid applications. File the correct forms by the specified deadlines. Funds are widely available, but they are not unlimited. 


Grants and Fellowships. These are outright awards that require no service in return. Grants are usually provided to those with financial need. Fellowships are prestigious awards given selectively. Financial need is not taken into consideration. 

Teaching & Research Assistantships. These awards are given to recipients in exchange for a service to the university. Appointments to teaching assistantships are based on academic qualification and are made by department heads. Research assistantships are rarely offered to first-year graduate students.

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Application Timeline

June - July

Research & Prepare:

  • Familiarize yourself with programs of interest
  • Develop a draft of your personal statement
  • Review academic and admission test requirements



  • Refine graduate school choices
  • Take graduate school admission test
  • Order transcripts


Take Action:

  • Update resume
  • Obtain letters of recommendation



Finalize Application:

  • Finalize and submit application
  • Visit programs to aid in decision-making process
  • Submit FAFSA

January - April

Close the Loop:

  • Notify schools regarding your decision and submit your deposit
  • Send thank you notes to those who were involved in your application process, specifically people who wrote letters of recommendation

Many graduate programs require you to submit your scores from a graduate admission test, often the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT).

Professional schools have their own specific tests:  

  • Business School: the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
  • Medical School: the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT )
  • Law School: the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

Test registration materials can be found in the University Testing Center, 011 Hullihen Hall.


Visit UD’s Division of Professional & Continuing Studies to learn more about Test Preparation Programs

As part of the selection process, admission committees always require official transcripts. Your grade point average is only one of many criteria evaluated. The content of your courses, your course load and major, as well as the reputation of your undergraduate institution are also important.

You can order your official transcript through UDSIS or the Registrar's Office.

Almost all applications to graduate school require that you write an essay or a personal statement. Put time and thought into its development and reflect clearly defined goals. Communicate why you wish to attend graduate school, what you hope to gain from the experience and what you envision to be your future plans. Read sample essays.


Do's & Do Not's of Personal Statements:


Do Don't
Answer all questions asked Write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear
Be honest and confident in your statement
Use empty, vague words
Make it interesting (this is your chance to grab their attention!) Repeat information directly from the application form itself
Develop a thesis at the beginning and use the information throughout the rest of the essay to support that thesis
Emphasize the negative
Focus on 2-4 main topics related to your professionalism and ability to do intellectual work (Do NOT summarize your entire life!)
Get too personal about religion or politics
Proofread! Make sure there are no spelling, grammar, or formatting errors
Try to be funny

If you are applying to graduate school upon completion of your undergraduate degree, many schools will request at least two academic recommendations.

If you have been working for a while and have recently decided to go back to graduate school, contact your schools of interest to determine how many of your recommendations need to be academic. 

A word to the wise… Provide plenty of time for your recommendations to be submitted. Remember that many admission deadlines are at the same time of year and you will likely not be the only person asking a professor for a letter of recommendation. At a minimum, you should provide the recommender with one month of lead time, although more is always better.

When requesting a letter of recommendation, you always want to first ask the prospective recommender if they feel as though they can speak positively about your work. If they can not speak positively about your work, you do not want them writing your letter of recommendation.

After asking this question, you will want to set up a meeting with the person who has agreed to write your letter of recommendation. You will want to bring the following documents to this meeting:

  • Resume
  • Personal statement and other essays
  • Information on schools to which you are applying
  • Sample papers or work from the person's class

Some graduate programs will require an interview. Interviews can often be the opportunity for borderline candidates to convince an institution of their potential success. The interview is also a chance for the institution to see how you react to stress and handle pressure. You also may be asked to address topics such as your motivation for graduate study, personal philosophy, career goals, related research, work experience and areas of interest. Prepare and dress for a graduate school interview as you would a job interview. Ask for the opportunity to attend classes and meet with current students in your program of choice.

Develop your graduate school interviewing skills and get tips and recommendations by using Big Interview.

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The UD Career Center is part of the Division of Student Life, which advances equity and inclusion, deepens student learning and drives holistic development through education, experiences and communities.