So, you want to go to graduate school. Do you know how you choose a school to attend? Or, where you can go for more information about the application process?
This information pamphlet is designed to provide you with very general guidelines to the process of applying to graduate school. Please be advised that this is not a complete document, and we strongly encourage you to consult our partnering offices, especially the Career Development Center, for further advice.~ Why Graduate School? ~
People have various reasons for pursuing graduate study, but the two most common reasons are as follows:
~ Knowing Which Program to Study ~
There are many possible criteria for selecting a graduate school. Here is a list of some of them:
Once you have decided which characteristics of a program are most important to you, then it's time to consider where you want to study. Most programs are competitive and many schools have fewer grad programs to choose from than they do undergraduate programs. Many schools build reputations as excellent places for certain fields of study, and that's where they may put all their energy, finances, and academic resources.
Identifying the program that best fits your aspirations is a research project. You should consider including the following resources in your research:
• Also visit CDC's website for many links to useful sites on the web: http://cdc.binghamton.edu/ugrad/gradservices.html
~ Prior To Application ~
Begin researching prospective graduate schools well in advance of your intended starting date.
~ The Application Process ~
An application form
The application may be a paper form or an online-form. Regardless of format, read it thoroughly. Although similar, there are subtle differences among applications. Make a photocopy of the application form for your draft and records.
A Statement of "Reasons for Graduate Study" (also known as a "statement of intent", "statement of purpose" or "personal statement")
Official transcripts of your academic work
A transcript is a certified, official copy of a student's permanent academic record. All graduate schools require official transcripts of your grades from any colleges you attended. Most schools ask that transcripts be sent directly to them, but some ask that you collect the information and send in a complete application package. Contact the registrar's office (at every undergraduate institution you have attended) to request that your transcript be sent either to you or directly to the school to which you are applying. Begin this process early because schools require time to process your forms and send the transcripts. You do not want your application to be rejected because your transcript was late or never arrived.
Your Binghamton University official transcript is issued at no cost to you. You may request one by visiting the Registrar's Office, Student Wing Room 119, or on-line at:
When submitting your academic transcript, you will also need to get a certified and notarized translation, if it is not in English.
Letters of recommendation
Most schools require two or three letters. Try to get three, or even more, in case one is lost or submitted late. Some programs require more recommendations for Ph.D. applicants than they do for Master's degree applicants. Others require additional recommendations for students applying for funding. Be sure you know the specific procedure for the department to which you are applying.
Scores from standardized tests such as the TOEFL, GRE, or GMAT
Most graduate programs require the GRE for admission; however, law, medical, and business schools usually require different exams (the LSAT, MCAT, and GMAT, respectively). Some programs also require the GRE Subject Test, a standardized test that covers the material in a discipline (e.g., Psychology). Most graduate admissions committees are inundated with applications, and apply cut-off scores to the GRE, considering only applications that have scores above the cut-off point. Some, but not all, schools reveal their average GRE scores in their admissions material and in graduate school admissions books.All universities in the US require international applicants whose native language is other than English to show evidence of command of the English language, generally by means of satisfactory scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). It is an exam written and administered by ETS to test basic English language skills. Most graduate programs set minimum scores that applicants must achieve in order to qualify for enrollment.
Certificate of Financial Responsibility for International Students
Most schools require applicants to provide proof of financial responsibility to cover their educational and living expenses. Self-supporting students (including those who receive support from parents, friends, or relatives) are required to include official bank verification of adequate funds. Support by government, institution, or private scholarship must also be verified with a certified letter.
Additional items might be requested from the department/program you apply to, such as:
• Courses-in-progress/Projected Coursework (if you are working on a degree at the time you apply).
~ The Do's and Don'ts of Applying to Graduate School ~
DO start your application one to one-and-a-half years before you plan to enroll.
DO make sure you double-check all your deadlines - they may be different than undergraduate deadlines.
DO get your financial aid application in as early as possible. Financial aid for grad school is limited.
DO fill out your financial aid application online, if possible.
DO read applications and directions carefully.
DO start asking for letters of recommendation at least six months before your application deadline.
DO fill out your own applications. Type the information yourself to avoid crucial mistakes.
DO make copies of all applications, and practice filling one out before you complete the original.
DO type or neatly print your answers, and then proofread the applications and essays several times for accuracy.
DO ask someone else to proofread them for you as well.
DO demonstrate that you are professional, focused, and very interested in the field you've chosen to study.
DO be truthful, and do not exaggerate your accomplishments.
DO keep a copy of all the forms you submit.
DON'T use correction fluid. If you type your application, use a correctable typewriter or liftoff strips to correct mistakes. Better yet, fill out your application online.
DON'T write in script. If you don't have access to a computer or typewriter, print neatly.
DON'T leave blank spaces. Missing information may cause your application to be sent back or delayed.
DON'T be unclear. If the question calls for a specific answer, don't try to dodge it by being vague.
DON'T approach people about letters of recommendation at the last minute!
DON'T go overboard on your personal essay. Treat it as a professional application, not a creative project.
DON'T assume that the admission office has everything they need. Wait two or three weeks and then follow up and make sure that your application is complete
~ Exploring Financial Aid ~
A variety of financial assistance is available for graduate study including graduate assistantships, fellowships, work-study, grants, traineeships, or scholarships offered directly by the university, foundations or other organizations. Financial aid can be obtained through the department of study (graduate assistantships), through the university, or from outside sources such as federal government loans, professional associations, community organizations or businesses.
Most universities offer a number of teaching and research assistantships in the instructional and research programs in various departments. Stipends vary greatly depending on the university. You have to make sure that the assistantship is adequate to meet your minimum financial needs. Graduate assistants usually are not required to pay tuition charges. A graduate assistantship is not a scholarship, and a full assistantship requires a work contribution by the student averaging 20 hours per week, and Federal and State income taxes will be withheld from earnings.
These Fellowships are awarded to graduate students on a very competitive basis and are intended to help superior students pursue graduate study without a work requirement and obtain a degree in the minimum possible time. Usually a tuition waiver accompanies a University Fellowship, and no service is required.
Resources for Identifying Scholarships
This information has been compiled by the ISSS staff from the following websites:
• Career Development Center at Binghamton University ( http://cdc.binghamton.edu/ )• http://www.petersons.com/common/article.asp?id=506&path=gr.gs.advice&sponsor=1
Last Updated: 3/12/12