Many BSOS students pursue graduate or professional school upon completing their bachelor degree at UMD. This section provides quick links to assist students in exploring which educational path will lead to their career of interest.


Successfully applying to graduate school programs requires planning. Use this short guide to consider if graduate school is a requirement for your future career path, as well as gain helpful tips that will get you started on your graduate school plan.  

Is graduate school for me?

Graduate school is not for everyone and it is not a requirement for all career fields. If you are unsure of your next step, consider the reasons to apply to a graduate or professional school listed below.

  • Completed a self-assessment of interests and researched the educational requirements of career options related to my interests.
  • Strong interest in a particular subject matter and through informational interviews found that further education is favored within the field.
  • Chosen career position requires a license or certification that stipulates the completion of an advanced degree.
  • Knowledgeable of the financial obligations and other aspects related to applying to a graduate program and found it to be an investment for my future career position.

When is the right time to go to graduate school?

  • It is never too late to apply and attend graduate school. In fact the average age of graduate students is 33 years old. Many students take a “gap year” to complete a volunteer project or work in the field to test it out and gain skills. 
  • Start the planning process one year before your ideal start date and make sure to stay in touch with those professionals who will serve as recommenders to support your graduate school application.

More resources from the University Career Center. 

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The following is a proposed timeline for students interested in attending graduate school immediately following the completion of their undergraduate career. 

Timeline Overview 


  • Keep your grades up. Graduate programs sometimes place a heavy emphasis on GPA.
  • Understand standardized tests. Most graduate programs require applying students to complete an assessment like the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc. Identify when and where the tests are being administered and plan accordingly. 
  • Generate a list of possible graduate school options.
  • Research graduate programs with the following questions in mind: “What do you want out of a program?”, “Are there faculty conducting the kind of research that you are interested in?” or “Will the program offer significant opportunities?” Consider the following aspects of each program you investigate:
    • Geographical location
    • Faculty in specialty area
    • Costs 
    • Financial aid available
    • Practical experience
    • Where the graduates are working
    • Housing opportunities
    • Diversity within the program
    • Resources available 
    • Facilities (labs, research centers, etc.)
    • Reputation
    • Reinforce current relationships with professors to secure future recommendations letters. Current professors can also be a great source of information since they have completed an advanced degree.


  • Study and take the respective standardized test or schedule a date for the fall.
  • Narrow your school choice. Decide on one or two favorites, as well as one or two backups. The Peterson’s guide and include a list of programs that can be filtered by location, size, degree type, etc.
  • Arrange a visit to your schools of interest to connect with current students and become familiar with the schools’ environment, if possible.
  • Request application materials from graduate schools or ask questions about the online application system. Check other application requirements and ensure that you know the due date for everything.
  • Does your online image need a clean up? If an admission counselor were to find you on Facebook or Instagram, would it hurt your candidacy?
  • Update your resume and have it reviewed by the Feller Center.  

SENIOR YEAR: September/October

  • Depending on your area of study, consider researching the faculty within your desired program to examine their research interest. If you locate a professor of interest, you may contact him/her to express interest and ask questions. Professors are very busy, so be sure to have a reason for sending an email/leaving a message, and be careful with the time you are requesting.   
  • Request letters of recommendation from faculty. Give your recommenders the following information: 
  • An overview of your experiences and/or a copy of your resume. 
  • Deadline date. List a date that is a week or two before the actual date.
  • Name of the school and program in which you are applying.
  • Instructions on how to submit the recommendations (via email, a database system or a letter). 
  • Draft your statement of purpose. Consult the instructions for each graduate program regarding the state of purpose, as directions may vary. Make an appointment with the UMD Writing Center to have it reviewed. Additional tips for getting started are listed below. 
  • Take any required standardized test!  
  • Attend area graduate school fairs to network with admission counselors and gain inside information.
  • Research scholarships and potential sources of financial aid available through each program you apply to. 

SENIOR YEAR: November/December

  • Follow-up with professors to ensure recommendations have been sent and send thank you notes/emails.
  • Have official transcripts sent.  
  • Polish off your statement of purpose. 
  • Complete application forms adhering to stated deadlines.

SENIOR YEAR: January/February

  • Submit applications adhering to stated deadlines. Ensure you have a record of all of the documentation you submit.  Submit your application early to avoid last minute rushes and complicated situations.
  • Fill out FAFSA after January 1st to apply for financial aid.  Remember, you will eventually have to include a copy of your federal income tax return.
  • Check with the graduate program to ensure that all required application materials have arrived. 
  • Prepare for a phone and/or an on-campus admission interview (optional in some cases; required in others).

SENIOR YEAR: March/April

  • Make a decision. After you have heard from all of the schools, send your acceptance and declination letters promptly.
  • Finally, the process is over! Do not forget to send thank you letters to all the people that helped you, such as recommenders, friends, etc. Stay in contact with your recommenders because you never know when you may need them again. 

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Specialty Programs

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Application Tips

Some graduate school applications can be very time consuming. Use the resources below to start your planning early.  What is involved in an application? Read about all of the parts and how to stand out

Personal Statement 

Interviewing Tips

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Finding the right graduate school program might seem like an intimidating process. There are many graduate programs in the world, and, depending on what you hope to do with your professional life, many of them might seem like good options to consider. 

Getting Started:

Review the 5 Steps to Researching the Best Graduate Programs for Your Career Goals.

Review potential program options by using the Peterson's Graduate School Guide. You can filter potentially interesting programs by criteria like location, setting, size, etc. to narrow down your list. 

Consider connecting with researchers on ResearchGate and explore your interest. 

Review your major's career guide to see what information and tips there are about finding graduate school programs in your industry. 

Considering Online Graduate School?

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Different types of financial aid exist for graduate school. Opportunities may be based within the university, federal government, or private organizations and will vary based on your area of interest and type of degree sought. Financing your education and other ways to watch your bottom line. 

Based in Graduate Program or University:

  • Fellowships & Grants: generally, requires an application and when granted, the recipients receive a “stipend” or awarded money. The recipients may be obligated to conduct research or particular duties outlined by the fellowship or grant.
  • Research Assistantships: money awarded in exchange for the recipient’s research assistance, usually within their graduate studies area.
  • Teaching Assistantships: money awarded in exchange for the recipients teaching of college courses, usually within their graduate studies area. 
  • Administrative Assistantships: position that contains a stipend for the completion of administrative task in an academic or student affairs university office. Graduate students in programs like Student Personnel or Counseling usually apply for this type of financial aid.
  • Review these tips from ProFellow for locating and obtaining graduate school fellowships and scholarships

Federal Government/Volunteer:

  • GI Bill: Affords Veterans money to finance undergraduate or graduate studies.
  • Military:  Can often get support for graduate and professional education in exchange for a commitment to future military service.
  • Volunteering: AmeriCorps offer a one-time educational stipend to accepted volunteers who complete a 9-month service commitment. Peace Corps and other similar programs offer combined graduate school and service opportunities.
  • Public Service and Student Debt: Analysis of Existing Benefits and Options for Public Service Organizations
  • Loans: Parents or students may borrow money under the federal loan program upon meeting certain qualifications. The loans tend to have lower interest rates than private sector loans and require repayment. Read more.

Private Sector:

  • Banks/Credit Unions: Parents or students may qualify for a private sector educational loan. Loans must be repaid with interest.
  • Employer Sponsorship: Some organizations fund additional education. The catch is they usually expect you to continue working for them after you complete your degree to recoup their investment.

Additional Resources:

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Idealist Grad Fairs connect individuals with graduate schools in fields such as public administration, international affairs, education, public policy, public interest law, social work, nonprofit management, etc.

Fellowship opportunities, ProFellow (login required)

Interested in grad school for International Affairs? Check out APSIA's calendar of events to attend graduate school open houses and workshops.

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McNair Graduate School Preparation Program
Are you thinking about pursuing a Master's or Ph.D.? The McNair Scholars program can help you get there! The Academic Achievement Programs' Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program is a graduate school preparation program designed to prepare and guide high academic achievers who are 1st generation students or students from traditionally underserved groups to matriculate into graduate programs & to earn doctoral or terminal degrees.

Best Practices in Applying to Graduate School by APSIA: The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs
Thursday, December 9, 2021 • 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. | Register
Join the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) for an introductory webinar on best practices when applying for graduate school. APSIA’s International Admissions and Operations Manager will answer questions about:

  • Selecting a graduate program
  • Preparing an application
  • Paying for school
  • Career opportunities

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Advising Options