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Grad School Application: Journey, Resources, and Tips

grad school

Has the thought of going to Grad school crossed your mind? Are you thinking/planning to apply to Grad school but don't know where to start? If so, please read the following post on how to get started and a few tips and tricks to make you feel prepared as you start your new journey.

Before we start, please know despite society's "standard timeline and checklist of success," Grad school is not necessary for everyone depending on what career journey you plan to pursue. Whatever journey you think is best for you is the one best for you!  However, if you're interested in continuing your higher education and want to hone the skills to become a better professional, perhaps Grad school is a good choice for you!

A Few Things to Consider About Applying to Grad School: Heading link

  • What Grad school program are you interested in pursuing? Masters? Ph.D.? Etc.,
    • Please know some programs allow you to go from a Bachelor’s directly to a Ph.D. program.
  • When do you plan to go to Grad school?/ When would you like to start?  After obtaining your Bachelor’s/Master’s degree or do you want to take some time off in-between to work/gain experience?
    • Tip: If you plan to work full-time, please know some employment places may be willing to offer you a tuition waiver to get a higher degree in the field that benefits your place of employment. So it may be good to ask about what benefits are included with the job.
  • What program are you pursuing? What’s your end goal? How would your intended program help you achieve your goals?
  • Are you willing to relocate to receive your education?
  • The big question: How much will tuition cost? Are you in a financially stable place to invest in application fees and tuition if accepted? How do you plan to pay tuition costs (loans/financial aid/assistantship/waiver)? Application costs can range anywhere from $50-$200> per school application. (Not including the cost of GRE if required).
  • If the GRE is not required, would it benefit you to take it?
    • Answer: It depends on how heavy your application weighs the GRE. Are you a good standardized tester? Think: Will your potential GRE score make you a better candidate?
  • Does the program/school’s mission statement match your goals and morals? Does the school culture match your ideals?
    • Tip: You know the program is a good fit for YOU if your goals match theirs. If the environment and school structure match your own, you’re more likely to succeed and feel a part of the community.
  • **Have you made an impact in your classes/research positions/ internships and/or in your workplace so that you can respectfully ask at least 3 professors/supervisors/mentors for a letter of recommendation?
    • Please know during your Undergraduate or Graduate journey that you should build meaningful connections with your professors and TA’s. Typically, you want to ask individuals who KNOW YOU BEST and can write an impactful/moving letter about your characteristics and qualifications for the program.
    • Tip: When pursuing a graduate program, it’s best to ask professors that match the program intended. I.e., if you’re planning to attend a psychology Grad program and majored in psychology, then ask some of your psychology professors. However, remember that you want to ask someone who knows how to write well and will boast about you. (You would need to build relationships with professors/TA’s/ mentors. To do so so attend office hours, ask questions, keep up with their work).
    • Disclaimer: Not everyone you ask will say yes to writing you a letter of recommendation, so think and plan accordingly.
  • For more things to consider and a step-by-step fill-in guide on applying to grad school, fill out the Graduate School Guide pdf below. Continue to fill this out throughout your journey of applying to Grad school.

Taking a Step Back & Determining the Pros' and Cons of Attending Grad School: Heading link

The first step is to determine if Grad school is a good choice for you. Here are some pros and cons! Please know attending grad school is a big decision and could have a huge impact on your life, so you have to weigh all your options before jumping into the world of grad school. Please know if you feel like you need to take a break for a year or two and explore the professional world before going back to school, there is no shame in that!


  • You are more likely to get a higher-paying job with a master’s/Ph.D/Pre-professional degree or certificate than a bachelor’s. This, of course, depends on the field of study. Likewise, please know not all career goals require a graduate degree.
    • For example: A student with a bachelor’s degree in Computer science might earn $68,600 on average, but with a master’s, they can earn $84,800 on average.
    • Nursing Bachelors degree earns: $60,900 while a Master’s degree earns $81,700
  • Depending on the occupation and available job positions at the time, you could advance your career and start with senior-level positions instead of entry-level.
  • You will be able to network with other people who are on the same path as you.
  • You will have the opportunity to participate in research that could be published somewhere
  • Gain more knowledge on a topic which you are most likely very passionate about
  • Your resume will stand out when applying for jobs compared to people without a graduate degree, which can give you higher chances of getting hired.


Ask yourselves these questions above to help you reflect on your goals and aspirations. It may be helpful also to assess your financial situation, current position, and mental health. Think: Is Grad school a good fit for your right now? If you answered yes, then move on to the next step, doing research!

Researching Your Program: Heading link

  • Step 1: Do a general search on Google to see what Universities offer your intended program of interest
  • Step 2: Jot down the name of universities and the program/degree they offer
  • Step 3: Lookup program by school and type of degree MA, MS, or Ph.D., etc.
    • Read their program carefully. Are there any concentrations? Do they match your own?
    • What are the qualifications or requirements to apply?
    • Check if the success of the program will grant you certifications of some sort. (Does your career goal need certifications?)
    • Do they offer financial aid, scholarships, assistantships to help pay the cost of tuition?
    • What resources do they have for students in the program to help them succeed?
    • Does the program require a dissertation? Practicum experience?
    • What’s the general student population? Is that a good fit for you?
    • What time do classes usually occur? Are they flexible for full-time working students?
  • Step 4: Using the Grad School Guide pdf. or an excel sheet, highlight what programs you are interested in and if you have any answered questions from viewing their website. (Write your questions down to ask admissions)
  • Step 5: Revisit the application steps and the process of programs you plan to apply to

Once you settled down on what program you would apply to, you can then work on the applying process.

Tips on the Application Process: Utilize Your UIC Resources! Heading link

  • Schedule appointments with your intended program admissions folx so that you can ask them questions about the program and see if it’s a good fit. You can also feel free to ask admissions folkx if they can introduce you to students in the program to ask them questions about their experience, student culture, and program rigor.
    • Tip: Do your research BEFORE meeting with admissions so that you can ask SPECIFIC questions about the program. Admissions folkx will be delighted to know you did your research. Remember, they’re the ones sitting at the table deciding if you get in, so make a genuine first impression. Likewise, remember, you get to decide if the program is a good fit for YOU, so ask them all your questions!
  • If possible, attend informational sessions and campus visits
  • Start sending emails to professors/supervisors/mentors for letters of rec. (Give them as much of an early notice as possible (2+ month before the deadline if possible), share application deadline dates, and why you’re pursuing your intended program)
  • Consider sending and scheduling informational sessions with professors in the field and or people working in your intended and future career field. Is it a good fit for you?
    • Tip: Check out the professional email etiquette guide below for templates on how to send a professional email
  • Start self-promoting and marketing yourself more professionally by creating a Linkedin profile. If you already have a Linkedin profile, choose to be a weekly active member. This would be an excellent tool to start networking and connecting with folkx in your career of interest or program of interest.
    • Tip: Visit Linkedin guide below for tips and advice.
  • Work on your resume! Start scheduling appointments with UIC Career Services. Make this an ongoing appointment. P.s. Career Services are offered to UIC Alumni as well.
    • Tip: Check out the Resume guide below on how to build a strong resume. (Bonus tips: Make sure to save your resume as a pdf as to not to alter your formatting ++ name your resume something professional, e.g., Doe, Jane_MPH Candidate Resume)
  • If you’re a current UIC Student, schedule a Writing Center appointment to help with your personal statement/essay prompts. Please know each program may have different requirements and prompts, so ensure you answer the prompt accordingly.
  • View the video below for more tips about applying to grad school.

We hope this information was helpful and good luck on your journey to grad school!

Resources: Heading link

View the resources below to help you in your journey!

Digital Download: Graduate School Guide pdf.

Digital Download: Resume Guide pdf.

Digital Download: Professional Communication Guide pdf.

Digital Download: Building Your Linkedin Profile

Learning More About: Your Dream Job (Pay, Qualifications and Duties)

INSIDE Grad School Admissions - My Experience on an Admissions Board Heading link