Graduate School Preparation

Graduate School Preparation

Are you planning to attend graduate school?

Preparing for Graduate School means taking entrance examinations, requesting references and constructing an effective application. Here you can find advice to assist you in becoming Grad School Ready. provides a general overview and additional advice, articles and resources to cover all of the topics listed on this page in more detail.

 Email Career Services and request a copy of the Graduate School Guide, the Law School Guide or the Medical School Guide and schedule an appointment to discuss.

The Graduate Requisite Examination:

The GRE website is a helpful site to both register for the GRE and access review materials and practice tests.  After taking the GRE, you can also view your results.. 

The fee for taking the current GRE test in the U.S. is $185. A full list of the exam fees as well as free, and priced, test-preparation materials can be found on the GRE Offers Website

The Ave Maria University Canizaro Library provides reference materials to prepare for the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT and Miller Analogies Test. For a listing you can follow this link: Library Career Resources.

Key Questions to Consider

What graduate program areas will best help you accomplish your professional goals?

  • What have professionals in your intended field said regarding graduate programs?
  • How do external criteria such as geographic limitations, family needs and finances impact the scope of programs that you are able to consider?

Prepare a list of the Attributes that you would like a graduate program to have. You may want to add to your list some of the following criteria:

  • Program goals and purpose
  • Fit of program with your career goals
  • Availability of practical/professional experience
  • Success of graduates in obtaining positions
  • Program length
  • Location
  • Cost(s)
  • Availability of financial aid


Identify what you most want from a graduate program. Once you have done that, research programs in your field online, in the library, and speak with faculty and  professionals in the field. Call Graduate programs you are interested in and speak with the department coordinator or chair to ask if job placement information from past graduates is available.

Ask to set up an appointment to speak with the chair of the department, or his/her assistant, to discuss the program in greater detail. Applicants will need to demonstrate maturity and preparedness to enter graduate school, and emphasize the strong connection between the program and their intended career path.

Graduate School Application:

Organization is essential when applying to graduate schools. Deadlines, requirements and testing will vary. An orderly file system and check lists with space to indicate completion date will help to keep track of application requirements, i.e. Application Forms, Transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, Essays or Personal Statements, Admissions Tests, Resumes, Interviews, etc.  Make sure to stay organized and meet your deadlines: this will emphasize your maturity to your future program as well as prepare you for staying "on top of things" in your future career.

Requesting a letter of Reference

In an ideal world, the people you will ask to write letters on your behalf are those who know you well. Class Participation is perhaps the best way to get to know a professor and alert them to your insights and abilities. Take advantage of open faculty hours in order to establish personal and academic connections with professors in your department. Establishing additional personal and academic connections with professors early in your studies will help when it comes time to procure an effective letter of Reference.  Remember to give a professor a minimum of one month to prepare a letter of reference along with the following:

  • CV or resume highlighting your accomplishments.
  • Transcript copy or informal record indicating the courses you have taken with the particular professor and/or in your major if applicable.
  • Exams or papers you have written for this instructor, including your grades and the comments.
  • A description of the program or fellowship to which you are applying.
  • Copy of personal statements you will be submitting along with your application.
  • Program or institution's reference form. Faculty members may choose to write a reference on formal letterhead instead of an individual form.

Make sure to ask your references if they would like a stamped, addressed envelope to mail directly or if they prefer to return the letter in a signed, sealed envelope for you to send.

Confidentiality: You have the legal right not to waive access to your recommendation, but some schools or agencies may consider confidential letters more useful.

Making the Request: Set up an appointment with a professor well in advance to discuss your goals and request a letter of reference. do not simply drop off the reference form in a professor's box or send her or him an email request.

Follow-up: Follow-up with your school or program to ensure that your application is complete and they have received your references.

Professors like to hear about your acceptances and may be able to provide insight in the event you are not successful. Writing a thoughtful reference letter takes time. Send a thank you note to each person who has written a letter on your behalf.

Essays and Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose

Your essay(s) provide the application review committee the opportunity to understand how you came to the decision to attend graduate school and how you selected their program, as well as your expectations after you attain your graduate degree.

Your essay must be error-free. A few readers are recommended to proof read and review your content. Have a faculty member in the academic area to which you are applying included as one of your readers if possible.

Admissions Tests for Graduate and Professional Schools

If testing is required, such as GRE, GMAT or subject-specific exams, be sure to leave plenty of time to have scores sent to schools to meet deadlines.


Resumes for graduate school applications are not limited in length. Highlight your leadership, internship, work experience, and especially your relevant research and class projects.


If an interview is required for a graduate program, it is critical to be well prepared.

Consider the following points before your interview:

  • What types of questions might be asked?
  • What types of applicants are the program seeking?
  • What makes you the ideal candidate for the program and the field?
  • How will you benefit from the program?
  • How will the program contribute to your career goals?
  • What are some questions you would like to ask (be sure these are based on your advance research of their Program)
  • Discuss your research with a career counselor.