Applying to grad school both stressful, exciting

Being a senior can be a very scary ordeal, especially for a senior in college. The future is unknown, and there is so much to do and decide before graduation day comes.

For those going straight into the work force, life might revolve around resumes and job applications. For those applying to graduate school, there are a ton of details that need to be figured out during the duration of senior year.

The first step in applying to graduate school is to find schools that have a program you’re interested in pursuing. Websites like can assist with research for an appropriate program.

Douglas Boudreau, Ph.D., head of the honors program at Mercyhurst, suggests talking to your academic advisor about subjects and degrees that might interest you.

The second thing that is needed for almost all graduate schools is the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or some other form of standardized testing. Schools use these scores much like the SAT for entrance to undergraduate programs.

The suggested time to take these tests is during the fall of senior year, to give yourself time to retake the test in case you don’t perform well the first time.

To register for the GREs, go to, and sign up. The cost of taking the test is about $160.

Another good idea is to start developing a resume. The Career Development Center is a great resource for anyone trying to create an appropriate and professional looking resume. The Career Development Center is located on the first floor of Egan.

Boudreau also adds that it’s important to have good letters of recommendation to accompany your application.

He says, “You will be needing letters of recommendation from faculty in your discipline, so it is best if they know who you are and have a favorable impression of you.”

To keep all of this information organized, a chart would be a useful tool to use, listing application fees, deadlines and materials that need to accompany each individual application.

According to Boudreau, graduate schools are very interested in students who have been involved in their undergraduate degrees and have been placed in leadership roles inside and outside the classroom.

“In a number of disciplines, graduate programs look favorably on applicants that have been involved in activities outside of the classroom. It is obviously more impressive if you can show that you have been involved in a particular organization or activity for three of four years and especially if you can show that you have played a leadership role,” he says.

If you haven’t been placed in any of these roles, it’s never too late to start. Ask professors about research assistant positions, get involved as a tutor or offer to present a project at a conference.

Although the application process for graduate school may be stressful, it is important to keep in mind the exciting things this next educational step offers.

For some it might be the location of their preferred grad school. For others it might be the opportunity to further their education in something that they really enjoy doing.

Try to focus on the excitement that all these decisions entail, instead of the stress of the process.

For more information about how to apply to grad school, or if you need help building a resume or other application material, visit the Career Development Center.