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Graduate School

Advanced degrees, advanced success...

Graduate school constitutes an advanced program of study focused on a particular academic discipline or a specific profession. Traditionally, graduate school has been "academic" (centered on generating original research in a particular discipline), but it may be "professional" (centered on imparting skills and knowledge to future professionals), or a combination of both traditions.

How is graduate school different from undergraduate education?
Graduate school differs from undergraduate education in terms of expectations regarding the quality and quantity of your academic work and its concentrated nature. Generally, you arrive at graduate school with the desire to pursue a course of study in a specific discipline or profession; typically, there is not a lot of room for exploration or elective courses. Your work will be more rigorously evaluated, often by both faculty and fellow students. Classes tend to be small; interaction is expected and often necessary to excel. Most likely, you will be required to produce some type of original research. These demands are often coupled with a work experience, be it a career-related internship, grading, teaching or researching.

Application Timeline
Junior Year

  • Talk to faculty, advisors, career services & internships, and others to discuss graduate programs
  • Read graduate program materials (Peterson’s Guides, websites, catalogs)
  • Determine admission and test requirements, application deadlines, test dates, etc.
  • Obtain application and financial aid materials
  • Begin writing personal statements
  • Take graduate admissions tests

Senior Year – Fall

  • Request letters of recommendation
  • Request transcripts to be sent
  • Complete & send in application materials
  • Contact schools to make sure application is complete

Senior Year – Spring

  • Visit schools
  • Schools will respond about acceptance or non-acceptance
  • Decide which school to attend

Tips for selecting the right graduate program and school
Begin your research by consulting with people. Talk with your advisor and professors at Saint Mary's and with other professionals in the field. Ask where they did their graduate work and get recommendations about specific programs. It is also important to consult with students currently studying in the graduate programs you are considering. Continue your research by consulting reference materials. Peterson's Graduate and Professional Programs provide a comprehensive listing including degrees offered, enrollment figures, admission and degree requirements, tuition, financial aid, housing, faculty and more.The Career Services and Internship Office has additional resources that you may find helpful. 

As you create your list of potential schools, there are many important factors to consider.

  • Department specialties
  • Flexibility of curriculum and schedule
  • Admission/pre-requisite requirements
  • Facilities: library, housing, labs, etc.
  • Reputation and quality of program
  • Practical experience opportunities
  • Cost/tuition/availability of financial aid
  • Location/geography
  • Minority students enrolled
  • Faculty/possibility of advisor in your field
  • Ph.D. production and average amount of time to complete
  • Placement of graduates

Websites that may assist you in your search for Graduate/Professional Schools:

Peterson's Education Center
Kaplan's Guide
Princeton Review
US News & World Report Rankings

What graduate degrees are available?
Master's degrees are offered in many fields of study. Some are designed to lead to a doctorate degree while others are the "terminal" degree for a profession (e.g., Master of Library Science; Master of Business Administration). For full-time students, completing a master's degree usually takes two years. As a part of a master's degree, you may be required to write a master's thesis or complete a fieldwork experience.

Specialist degrees are usually earned in addition to a master's degree. A specialist degree may require coursework, training, or internship experience beyond what was required for a master's degree. This type of degree usually prepares students for professional certification or licensing requirements (e.g., Ed.S. for school principal).

Doctorate degrees are the highest degrees possible. They usually require the creation of new knowledge-be it basic or applied. In order to complete a doctorate degree, you will need to be able to conduct independent research. Including the time it takes to write and defend a dissertation, this degree may take anywhere from five to seven years to complete.