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Graduate School

Graduate School

Georgia Southern University has a wide variety of graduate degrees for students to select from.  Learn more on the College of Graduate Studies website here.

Graduate School is an opportunity to prepare for a new profession, advance in your current field, or explore advanced learning for self-enhancement.

Graduate study expects you to have strengths in the field that you are entering. Some programs even stipulate additional prerequisites if you do not have appropriate prior experiences. If you select a professional preparation program, then you can expect the program to prepare you for national standards that may be assessed in exams and/or internships. If you want to be a researcher, then your program will require a mix of advanced courses, guided research experiences, and independent research.

Graduate study requires real commitment and is different in many ways from your undergraduate work. It is focused, shorter, and more intense. It requires a careful balance of independent critical thinking and the ability to meet the many requirements that vary according to your background, abilities, and interests. It also demands that you work closely with faculty experts and communicate well with them.

Here are some great resources for choosing a graduate school:
The Princeton Review
Grad School Testing Tips & Assistance
Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)
Accredited Online Colleges

Frequently Asked Questions

Deciding to Attend Graduate School

What is graduate school?

Graduate school is an advanced program of study focused on a particular academic discipline or profession. Programs can be academic in nature, professional, or a combination of both.

Academic graduate programs are designed to generate original study or research in a particular area. (Ex. English, Political Science, History, Psychology, etc.)

Professional programs are centered on developing skills and knowledge for a specific profession. (Ex. MBA, Pharmacy, Medical, Law etc.)

What graduate degrees are available?

Graduate degrees are available in almost any subject. Sometimes they can vary in depth or concentration. There are three levels of graduate degrees: Master, Specialist, and Doctorate. Depending on the graduate school program and degree level you desire, program requirements and length may vary.

  • Master’s degrees are available in many fields of study. Some are designed to lead to a doctoral degree while others are the “terminal” degree for a profession (e.g., Master of Library Science; Master of Business Administration).  For full-time students, completing a master’s degree usually takes 2 years.
  • Specialist degrees are usually earned in addition to a master’s degree and will require additional coursework, training, or internship experience. This type of degree usually prepares students for professional certification or licensing requirements (e.g., Ed.S. for school psychology). Many times people will use a Specialist degree as a bridge program to a doctoral degree.
  • Doctoral degrees are the highest degrees possible. Doctorate degrees can be theoretical and research-based within a field of study (Doctor of Philosophy) or they can be based on specialized practice in a professional field (e.g., Juris Doctor, Doctor of Medicine, etc.). They usually require independent, original research. Most programs may take anywhere from 5-7 years to complete.
How do I choose a graduate program and/or graduate school?

Once you have made the decision to go to graduate school, the next step is to research programs that match your interests and fit your needs. Don’t limit yourself at this point, but instead gather information on a broad range of programs.

Gather Information by:

  • Consulting graduate and professional school websites like those listed above
  • Contacting programs directly to get more detailed program information such as courses, professors, costs, financial aid, and application forms.
  • Attend workshops and information sessions about graduate school hosted by the OCPD, your academic department, or the programs of interest
  • Attend the Graduate School Fair hosted each fall semester by the Office of Career and Professional Development
  • Conduct informational interviews with current graduate students, professionals, and faculty in the graduate programs you are considering to gain insider information

Applying to Graduate School

When are applications typically due for graduate school?

Deadlines tend to occur in December, January, and February. Schools vary, so check out the Peterson’s Guide to Graduate/Professional School or the university’s website and see what the deadlines are at the programs that interest you. Note, there may be different deadlines for the graduate school/department and fellowships/financial aid applications.

What makes a competitive candidate for a top-notch graduate school?

Many factors go into admission to graduate school. Grades, especially in the proposed area of graduate study, are very important. The GRE counts but not as much as letters of recommendation from those who have taught you, and better yet, from those with whom you have done research. A Ph.D. program usually looks for research and scholarly potential. Talk to professors in the area you’re interested in with whom you might want to work and see what they have to say. Admission to graduate school is based on a broader range of factors than just grades and test scores.

What are the components of a typical graduate school application?

Most graduate school applications will include the following:

  1. Completion of an application. Some applications are through a CAS system which allows you to apply for multiple programs at once. Other applications are individualized for the specific school or program. Be sure to do research ahead of time so you are aware of the application process and any fees associated.
  2. Statement of Purpose. Click here for tips on how to write a strong statement of purpose
  3. Admissions Test. Click here for information on graduate admissions tests and how to prepare.
  4. Letter(s) of Recommendation. See below for more information about letters of recommendation. 

Funding Graduate School

What types of funding are available for graduate students?

Financial Aid is available for graduate school. Most graduate students finance their education through a combination of funding sources.

Types of Funding

  • Assistantships are usually campus-affiliated work assignments (e.g. graduate teaching instructor, research associate) that provide an individual a stipend and often waive tuition and/or other matriculation fees.
  • Fellowships are typically granted to individuals to cover their living expenses while they carry out research or work on a project. Awards may be single or multiple-year. Awards are usually based on an individual’s merit as measured by grades, GRE scores, publications, and letters of recommendation.
  • Grants are most often awarded to cover expenses associated with carrying out research or other specific projects, such as travel, materials, or computers.
  • Loans are available from the government and other private sources.
  • Scholarship awards are based on one or more of several criteria – merit, financial need, the discipline of study, career goals, or membership within a minority group.

For more information or assistance, visit our Financing Graduate School page.

Graduate School Admissions Tests

What kinds of admissions tests are there? 

Most graduate and professional schools require test scores for admission. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General and Subject tests are required by many academic programs (Masters and Doctoral degrees). MBA programs usually require the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Other tests are required in other fields such as the LSAT for law school, the MCAT for medical school, the DAT for dentistry school, the OAT for optometry school, and the TOEFL English proficiency test for international students.

When should I take admissions tests?

It is very important to prepare for and take these tests early. We recommend that you take these tests at the end of your junior year, so that you can submit your application materials early and have ample time to retake the test if necessary. For more information, visit our Graduate School Testing page.

Letters of Recommendation

Who should I approach to write my letters of recommendation? 

The best letter writers are those that know you well and can provide an evaluation of your ability to perform and succeed at the graduate level.

Graduate and professional school admissions people tell us the following make the best letter writers:

  • Someone who knows you well
  • Someone with the title of “Professor”
  • Someone who is a professor at the school granting your baccalaureate degree
  • Someone who has earned the degree which you are seeking in your graduate work
  • Someone with an advanced degree who has supervised you in a job or internship aligned with the graduate program you are pursuing (e.g., Public Health, Social Work, Business Administration, etc.)
  • Someone who has academically evaluated you in an upper-division class
  • Note: Letters from family friends, political figures, and the like are discouraged and, in fact, might be detrimental.
When should I approach letter writers? What if I plan to take some time off before I go to graduate school?

Professors and supervisors are generally pleased to write on your behalf; however, they are usually involved in many activities. Faculty members are especially busy during the months of November and December. Be considerate of your letter writers’ time and approach them at least two months before you need the letter.

If you plan to take some time off before going to graduate school, don’t wait until you want to apply to graduate school to ask for letters. Your professors could be on sabbatical, or you may not be fresh in their minds anymore. So, ask professors for a “general” letter of recommendation before you leave Georgia Southern and place their letters in a safe place. When you are ready to apply to graduate school, contact professors again, and ask them to update your letters.

How can I go about getting good letters of recommendation?

Since your best letters will come from those who know you well, make an effort to get to know your professors and/or supervisors. A few ways you can do this are to speak up in class, select courses with small class sizes, take more than one class from a professor, do research for a professor, take on optional projects, and regularly attend office hours.
The best strategy you can use to get a good letter of recommendation, particularly if a professor hasn’t known you for very long, is to provide your letter writer with ample information about you. This way, you will get a letter that includes concrete details about you, instead of a letter that contains only your grade, which is of limited value.

What information do my letter writers need to write good letters?

You can help your letter writers write enlightening letters by giving each of them a portfolio comprised of:

  1. A cover note that includes:
    • Information on how to get in touch with you in case they need to reach you
    • What you would like emphasized in each letter
    • A list of schools to which you are applying, and due dates, with the earliest due date at the top
    • Any other information that is relevant
    • Open and close your note with thanks and acknowledgment that the letter writer’s time is valuable and that this letter is important to your professional future.
  2. Recommendation forms – To make it easy for your letter writer to complete forms in a timely manner, complete the following:
    • Applicant information typed in
    • Recommender’s name, title, contact info (telephone, fax, address, etc.) typed in
  3. Your unofficial transcripts (note courses you took with them)
  4. A draft of your statement of purpose
  5. A copy of your best work in the course (with instructor comments on it), lab evaluations, projects, etc.
  6. Your résumé
  7. Stamped and addressed envelopes to send letters and forms directly to the schools of your choice.

Personal Statements

What is a personal statement? 

Graduate and professional schools often require some sort of written statement — often called a “statement of purpose,” “personal statement,” or “letter of intent”– as a part of the application. Some statements require rather specific information–for example, the applicant’s intended area of study within a graduate field. Still, others are quite unstructured, leaving the applicant free to address a wide range of matters. The importance of the statement varies from school to school and from field to field. For more information, visit our Personal Statements page.

Last updated: 11/7/2022