Applying to Grad School

Applying to graduate or professional school can be a great next step in your professional journey, whether you’re currently an undergraduate student or finished your degree at Southeastern years ago. Deepening your education can open up new career opportunities or provide a new skill set to advance your current career trajectory. Below, you’ll find an introduction to the graduate school as well as the application process. The process can be long and challenging, so meet with Career Services to map out your graduate school journey!

Grad School vs Employment

Going to graduate or professional school is a commitment. Before signing on for 1-6 years, pin down the reason you want to pursue a higher-level degree. Some good reasons to go to grad school include:

  1. I want to narrow my field of study.
  2. I want a job that requires a higher-level degree.
  3. I want to do research or pursue an academic career.


However, there are times grad school might not be a good fit. Some bad reasons to attend grad school include:

  1. I’m unsure what to do next.
  2. Most of my friends are going to grad school.
  3. I can’t find a job.


Often, getting more education may not provide a clearer career path or match you with a job. If you’re wondering about what to do after graduation, talk with a Career Services staff member about the options you have and job search strategies that work.

Degree Types

Graduate and professional degrees vary depending on the type of degree. Below, you’ll see a breakdown of common degree names with more details about each one.

Degree Type


Research & Job Preparation

Examples of Degrees


1-3 years

Moderate research to learn; practical job skills and preparation

Master of Business Administration, Master of Science, Master of Fine Arts


3-7 years

Research intensive; designed to contribute original thought to the field

Doctorate of Philosophy, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Music Education


3-5 years

Meet academic and licensure requirements; practical job skills and preparation

Juris Doctor, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Doctor of Occupational Therapy


Ideally, it’s great to start exploring programs about a year before you plan to attend graduate or professional programs. A student who is planning to attend in Fall 2025 might make a list of graduate programs they are interested in and start gathering application materials in Summer 2024.

Some programs start their process earlier than others. For example, medical schools have a very long and competitive application process. Often, students begin making a list of their top programs and gathering application materials 1.5 years before admittance.

Research what application deadlines are for your programs of interest and track them closely. Always begin earlier than you need to and try to submit applications early for the best chance of getting in and getting funding for your top programs. Keep track of deadlines using a tracker, like this one.

Exploring Programs

Your Goals: Consider what programs of study would fit your interest and goals. Research programs that offer internships, practicum, or other practical training if you want to be work ready after your program. If you’re interested in pursuing research or academia, look for programs that offer a thesis or dissertation and research assistantships. 

You will also want to consider factors like location, cost, public or private, cost of living, and more. Some of these factors may be more or less important to you, so determine your top 3-4 priorities and then start finding programs that fit those priorities. 

How to Find Programs: You can find programs by asking faculty or instructors in classes related to the area you want to study. It’s also helpful to ask professionals in the field you want to study where they attended graduate or professional school and why they chose it. 

You can also use an internet search to find lists of programs related to your area of study. Some graduate or professional programs have an accrediting body. Accreditation is a review process to determine if educational programs meet defined standards of quality. You can also use accreditation websites to find lists of accredited programs. For example, if you want to become a counselor, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) website has a list of all accredited programs based on location or program type.

Finally, professional association websites may be a helpful place to find a list of programs in your field. Professional associations exist to support people in a profession and advance a particular field. Each field has its own professional association. For example, the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) has a list of all graduate programs for prosthetics and orthotics in the US. 

Evaluating Possibility of Admission: Keep in mind that while you can select what programs you apply to, you can’t control which programs accept you. You’ll want to look for admissions statistics for that graduate program, which can often be found on the program’s website or by contacting the program coordinator. These are different from the minimum needed to apply. This can help you realistically evaluate the likelihood of being admitted to your top programs. Some programs are very competitive and may only admit a few students each year, while others may admit more applicants. Reach out to the graduate program coordinator if you are unsure how your application compares to the admissions requirements and admitted applicants.

Often, the more programs you apply to that have previously admitted students with an application that is similar to yours (GPA, test scores, research/field experience, etc.), the more likely you are to get accepted into a program. You should also talk to faculty, instructors, professionals, and Career Services staff to discuss how your GPA, test scores, and experiences match your top programs.

Application Components


GPA/Transcript: Usually, there is a required GPA for graduate or professional school admission. Make sure you meet the minimum GPA, which is often close to a 3.0 GPA. You may also be required to have certain coursework or have completed a certain undergraduate degree for admission. This will be clearly stated on the website, like Southeastern’s master’s degree in athletic training. Often, programs will look at your transcript to see your grades for upper-level coursework. Graduate programs like to see a consistent or upward trajectory in your grades.

Essay: Often, programs will require a Personal Statement,Letter of Intent, or similar essayto give you space in your application to share why you’re interested in this particular program. Always follow the guidelines provided by the program. Try to be specific about your goals, how they match the program, why you’re a good fit for the program/field, and share background or personal information that shows your strengths as a candidate. It’s great to write this essay in advance and have people review it. Try to tailor your essay to each program, noting what about that program is appealing to you and how you can add to their educational environment. Consider sharing it with your letter of recommendation writers, a family member/friend, instructors, the Writing Center, and/or Career Services for feedback.

Resume/CV: When applying to graduate or professional school, you’ll need to share your experiences that relate to the field. Often, you’ll do this by uploading a resume or CV. You can use our resume guidelines here to create a strong document that shows your skills and experiences. Some applications may have you write similar information directly into the application. 

Letters of Recommendation: To help validate and support your application, programs will often ask for letters of recommendation from two or three individuals. This could be having individuals fill out brief forms or upload digital letters. Ideally, this should be someone who can speak to your skills that relate most to the program. Follow any specific guidelines from the program, and use this article for tips on when and how to ask for letters of recommendation.

Note about Centralized Application Systems (CAS): Some professional programs use a CAS to allow students to easily apply to multiple programs. You submit one application and then select the specific schools you want to apply to. Some common program types and their CAS system are listed below: 


Graduate assistantships are one great way to help you pay for your graduate degree. Assistantships are an opportunity to work on campus and earn a stipend and partial or full tuition waiver. GAs can also provide you with practical research, teaching, or other experience to build your resume. Some universities may have a centralized list of assistantships like Southeastern or may provide assistantships through the academic department. Other universities will not, and you’ll need to reach out to faculty in the department to inquire about potential opportunities. Note that not all programs have assistantships available or they may not align with your school or clinical schedule. Reach out to the graduate program coordinator to find out what assistantships look like at your programs of interest.

Grants, fellowships, scholarships, and loans are other options to pay for graduate school. These have different requirements and deadlines. The main graduate school website is a great resource for funding graduate school.