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.
ResearchGate, connect with researchers and explore your interests
Review program options at Peterson's
Timeline Overview: JUNIOR YEAR
- 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
- Financial aid available
- Practical experience
- Where the graduates are working
- Housing opportunities
- Diversity within the program
- Resources available
- Facilities (labs, research centers, etc.)
- 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.
JUNIOR YEAR: Summer
- 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 GradSchools.com 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, would it hurt your candidacy?
- Update your resume and have it reviewed by the University Career 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.
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
- Planning tips for BSOS students
- GRE test prep tips
- 5 Tips for Getting a Stellar Letter of Recommendation, Vault article.
- Preparing for the Grad School Admissions Interview
- 10 popular questions with sample responses
- Five FAQs about interviewing for graduate school
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Financial aid: Loan Analyzer
- List of fully funded PhD & masters programs, ProFellow
- Loan forgiveness programs
- Peterson’s Graduate Scholarships & Financial Aid resources
- University Career Center resources
Idealist Grad Fairs (www.idealist.org/info/GradFairs) connect individuals with graduate schools in fields such as public administration, international affairs, education, public policy, public interest law, social work, nonprofit management, etc. (Free events)
Fellowship opportunities, ProFellow- login required
- Pre-Law Professions Advising Office: serves all current and former students at the University of Maryland interested in law school and legal careers.
- Reed-Yorke Health Professionals Advising Office: is available to advise students on health related graduate school admission.
- University Career Center: meets with students individually to discuss strategies for choosing, applying to, and evaluating graduate school offers.
- UMD Maryland Center for Undergraduate Research: can help students find mentors, enabling them to develop meaningful professional relationships in their field of interest. Students can use MCUR to find research opportunities that best match their skills.