Graduate & Professional School

From Earlham to Graduate or Professional School

Deciding to continue your education after Earlham is a big step. Take into consideration these tips and resources, and visit the CCE to talk one-on-one with a Career Coach about the application process.

Choosing a School

  • Research, research, research. Find out what the top schools in your chosen field are. Don’t be afraid to choose 20 or more schools to begin–you’ll narrow them down later. Read their websites and write down questions.
  • Be organized. You might consider creating a spreadsheet to track important information about each school.
  • Acquaint yourself with the faculty and their research. As a student in graduate or professional school, you will be working closely with the faculty in your program. Make sure your own academic interests align with faculty interests, and try to determine if the department seems like a good fit for you.
  • Visit the campus. This is a great way to meet and ask questions of both faculty and current students. Ask if the school can put you in contact with some current students or recent alumni, as well.

The Application

Graduate/professional school applications often require:

  • Official transcripts of your undergraduate study
  • Entrance exam scores
  • Two or more letters of recommendation from faculty or professionals in your field
  • Personal statement or letter of motivation explaining why you desire to study this subject at this institution
  • Writing sample or portfolio of your work
  • Application fee (usually ranges between $25 and $100, and can be waived in some cases)

The Personal Statement is often the most important piece of the application. There are many ways to write a personal statement, but in general, here are the components you likely want to include in your essay:

  • A short story or scene that illustrates how, why, or when you became interested in the field you want to study. (This helps build a personal connection between you and the application reader.)
  • Examples of the work, research, awards, or other experiences you’ve had in the field already. (This shows that you have already been seeking out ways to explore this field.)
  • Why you want to do this particular grad program. (It can be especially impactful if you mention a professor of the program whose work you admire.)
  • Your long-term goals, and how this degree will help you achieve them.

If you want more help with the personal statement, you might check out Graduate Admissions Essays by Donald Asher. We have copies in the CCE that you can look at, or you can order it on interlibrary loan from the library.

Application Timeline

  • Spring of Junior Year: Begin researching possible schools. Sign up to take the appropriate entrance exam: GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, DAT, PCAT, or OAT.
  • June/July/August: Take the entrance exam and continue to research possible schools.
  • September/October: Sign up to retake the entrance exam or to take a GRE subject test, if necessary. Choose your recommenders and ask them if they would be willing to write a positive letter of recommendation for you.
  • November: Complete your application materials and have them reviewed by a Career Coach and a faculty member. Check in with your recommenders and make sure they have everything they need to write a complete recommendation.
  • December: Submit your application and inquire about funding.

Entrance Exams for Graduate or Professional School

Most graduate and professional schools require you to take some type of entrance exam. These exams include:

  • GRE (Graduate Record Examination) for most graduate school programs
  • LSAT (Law School Admission Test) for law school programs
  • GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) for most Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs
  • MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) for medical school programs
  • CASA (CORE Academic Skills Assessment) for educator preparation programs (such as the Earlham M.A.T.)
  • DAT (Dental Admission Test) for dental school programs
  • PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) for most pharmacy school programs
  • OAT (Optometry Admission Test) for most optometry school programs

Research the requirements for your particular entrance exam, and register for the test early. Many exams, such as the GRE, require you to take the test at a designated testing center. In the case of the GRE, the testing centers nearest to Earlham are in Muncie, Indiana and Dayton, Ohio.

Preparing for Entrance Exams

There are various online and print resources dedicated to helping students prepare for graduate and professional school entrance exams. Visit the Career Education Office or check out one of these sites for more information.

Give yourself plenty of time to study and take your entrance exams before submitting your applications. You may decide to retake an entrance exam, so plan to take your first exam in the spring or summer before your senior year to allow time for this possibility.

Taking the Exam

The day of the exam, make sure you are well-rested and have eaten a balanced meal beforehand. Bring your ID, and wear layers in case the exam room is cold or hot. Do not bring your cell phone or other electronic devices into the exam, as these items may be cause for dismissal from the testing center.

Some exams are administered on computers, while others are in paper format. Upon finishing the exam, you will be asked where to send your test scores, so make sure you have a list of all the institutions to which you will likely apply.

If you decide to retake an entrance exam, review your chosen programs’ policies regarding multiple test scores. Some programs will only consider the highest score in the application, while others will review all submitted scores.

Funding Graduate or Professional School

There are multiple ways for students to fund their studies after Earlham–from fellowships and scholarships to assistantships, grants, and financial aid.

  • Fellowships and scholarships: Visit our Fellowships page to learn about some of the fellowships for which Earlham students apply, and meet with a Career Coach to discuss your options. You should also inquire with your chosen graduate program to find out if they have scholarships available.
  • Graduate assistantships: Many graduate school programs offer assistantships to students. Graduate assistantships offer compensation in return for research, teaching, or administrative work. This compensation can range from full or partial tuition remission to a set stipend. Ask the faculty or admissions staff at your chosen schools whether or not they offer assistantships. You may also be able to find assistantships in other departments or offices, like the campus library, career center, or admissions office.
  • Grants: Grants provide funding for study in a variety of fields, and can be merit- or need-based. Search for grants from the federal government by visiting
  • Financial aid: Graduate and professional school students, like undergraduate students, can apply for financial aid in the form of loans, grants, work-study, and more. Don’t forget to fill out the FAFSA to be eligible, and check out the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website for more information.

PLEASE, Don’t Start Your Grad School Application Your Senior Year!

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This post briefly covers where and when you should start with graduate school applications.

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