Things To Consider When Choosing a Graduate Program

Congratulations! You’ve decided to go to grad school! What next? Time to pick which program to pursue—a task that can seem overwhelming given the number of options available. We have seeked the guidance of Nathaniele Pelletier, Career and Vocational Counsellor at Bishop’s University, to help alleviate the stress and look forward to your next academic endeavour.

  1. Identify the graduate program that will meet your academic and career needs
  • Graduate certificate: Shorter in time and designed to gain specific knowledge and skills.
  • Master’s degree  – Thesis based: For students who are considering pursuing a PhD. Less courses but a more thorough research paper.
  • Course based:  This will usually include more courses and an internship. Depending on the program, it may also include a research component however, it won’t be as important.

2.  Seek relevant information to consider when choosing your program

  • Academic requirements of the provincial association that is overseeing the profession that interests you: Some professions require that you be part of a provincial professional association (for example, the Ontario College of Teachers). The requirements to join these associations may vary from one province to another.  Verify that the graduate program you are considering is meeting these requirements.

    As well, the process of joining these associations is often easier if you have completed your degree within the province they are covering.
  • Experiential learning opportunities: To work on real problems or create a solution or project for a real company can give you relevant experience for your résumé.  Getting an internship is a great opportunity to build your professional network while gaining valuable experience. Be on the lookout for such experiences when evaluating your different options. Especially if you are considering working after your graduate degree.
  • Research interests and work experience of the different faculty members: For most graduate programs you will be expected to do a research paper or thesis on a specific topic. You will get the support from a faculty member (supervisor) to complete this requirement. Make sure to do your research in finding the perfect faculty member that will help you in the topic that interests you.

3. Understand admission requirements and process

It is really important to identify the specific admission requirements for each program and universities that interests you.

  • University transcripts: You will need to fill in the appropriate document so Bishop’s can send your official transcripts to the program that interests you.
  • Letter of intent or motivation: Usually a page long. However, some programs may ask for a specific number of words (i.e.: 300 or less) or that the candidates answer specific questions. For more information on this subject, please visit our website.
  • Reference letters:  Universities will usually ask that at least one or all reference letters be from a professor. Therefore, make sure that you know the number of reference letters you need and who should be writing them. You need to provide the appropriate information regarding the program and the admission process to your references so they can write and send their reference letter to the appropriate person. Follow up with the professor and the program that interests you to make sure you are meeting all their requirements. Don’t forget that writing reference letters is just one of the many tasks a professor has to do, and they may be writing more than one reference letter per semester. Therefore, make sure you give them enough of a heads up to write a good reference letter.
  • Work experience: Some programs will ask that you send your résumé to identify your relevant experience or transferable skills. Include your volunteer experiences in this document and tailor it to the desired program.
  • Admission tests: Most graduate programs that receive a higher number of applications than their acceptance capacity will require that you pass an admission exam such as the LSAT or the Casper. Use workshops and or study guides to aces these exams. As you must register for these tests and they are not offered every week, it’s important that you start this process ahead of time.  For more information on the different admission tests, please visit our website.
  • Admission process: This process varies from one university to another and the information regarding the different steps of this process may or may not be clearly stated on the website of the program. For example, some universities will pay more attention to the grades you obtained during the last two years of your undergraduate program. Other graduate programs may also invite a greater number of potential candidates to the selection interview, since it’s an important component of the selection process. Applying to more than one program will increase your chances of being accepted to at least one program.

Need help in achieving your goals towards sending your application for Graduate Studies? Contact Bishop’s University Career and Transition Services today!

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