Applying to Graduate School

Your career and life plans determine at what point you should attend graduate school – immediately after graduation, after a few years of experience, much later in life, or never. The resources below will help you clarify your reasons to attend graduate school, determine an appropriate timeline, and find programmes that are a good fit.

Get Started

Use these general guidelines to determine whether graduate school is the right choice for you at a given point in time.

You SHOULD go to graduate school if…Your chosen career path requires an advanced degree (e.g. medicine, academia).
You are passionate about an academic field and would like to study it further.
You would like to change careers or progress faster in your current career.
You should NOT go to graduate school if… You are not sure which career path to take and want some time to think.
You want to delay searching for a full-time job and/or going into the “real world.”
You are only doing it to please other people (family, friends, professors, partner).

When graduate school seems to be the right choice, ask yourself these questions and discuss them with your academic advisor, CIPE advisors,and/or others who know you well:

  1. What are your career interests and life path goals?
  2.  Do you need an advanced degree to achieve them? If so, what kind of degree?
  3. How does having a graduate degree affect employability in your field of interest – would it make you more or less likely to find a good job? Would it overqualify you for certain jobs you are interested in?
  4. Can you afford to cover the costs of a graduate degree, including having to postpone full-time paid employment for 1-5 years?
  5. Is there a special circumstance (e.g. a scholarship bond), that makes it difficult or impractical to attend graduate school right after graduation?
  6. Are you able and willing to commit to 1-5 years of coursework and/or full-time, self-driven research that is much more rigorous than undergraduate research and coursework?
  7. What are the prerequisites for a graduate degree in your chosen field (CAP, major, coursework), and how can you fulfill them by the time you graduate?
  8. Have you pursued hands-on experience in your chosen career field to gain a better sense of its day-to-day realities?

Find further considerations in the links below.
Peterson’s: The Graduate School Decision Basic Considerations
Pursuing Graduate School (DePauw University Hubbard Center for Student Engagement)
Master’s vs. Ph.D.: Which is Right for You? (GradSchools.com)
Find a Ph.D.: How to Choose the Right Doctorate (Times Higher Education)
Vivek Haldar’s advice to prospective PhD students
Phil Agre’s Advice for Undergraduates Considering a PhD

Narrow Down

To generate a list of graduate programmes you will apply for, do research online, speak to professors in your field of interest, and connect with faculty, current students and recent alumni of your chosen programmes. While this is not crucial, you could also visit your schools of interest to get a sense of the culture and meet faculty and students, e.g. by pursuing a semester abroad there as an undergraduate, or using the travel funding that schools sometimes offer to admitted graduate applicants.

Helpful websites for narrowing down graduate schools include:

  • Professional and academic association websites;
  • University rankings, e.g. US News and World Report, QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education. A school’s ranking is important in some cases, e.g. if a student is on a government scholarship bond and wishes to extend it to cover graduate studies. In other cases, rankings are helpful but should not overly affect your decision since their criteria do not always reflect how strong a university is in your specific field of interest.
  • Graduate school forums, e.g. The Grad Cafe. These are informal community-driven portals; consider their advice critically.

The Princeton Review: 4 Tips for Choosing Graduate School
Quintessential Careers: Criteria for Choosing a Graduate School
USNews: How to Narrow Down Your Business School Application List (also applies to other graduate school programmes)

Seek Support

While planning and applying for graduate school, stay in regular contact with CIPE, your major advisor and Assistant Dean, and all others who are supporting you during the process. If you would like to discuss your plans with CIPE, complete this survey and then contact Zhana Sandeva (zhana.sandeva@yale-nus.edu.sg) to schedule an appointment.

After the Outcome

Update your recommenders on the outcome of all applications that they helped you with (whether positive or negative), and thank them for their support. If you have one or more admission offers, consult with your advisors, family and friends before deciding. Even if you only received one acceptance, consider if this is the best option for you, if you would be truly happy to attend, if it makes sense to attend at this point in time, and if they are offering you reasonable conditions (or if you should negotiate them further, especially in the case of funding).

If you received no acceptances, talk to CIPE and faculty advisors about reapplying, pursuing full-time employment or another focused and meaningful activity. If you want to reapply to your chosen school(s), contact their admissions department for feedback and discuss your application with advisors at Yale-NUS to identify areas for improvement. Most importantly, do not let the experience dampen your spirit – a “No” now can easily become a “Yes” in the next admission round. The extra time is also a good opportunity to reassess your goals and gain relevant experience.

GradSchools.com: How to Choose Between Multiple Acceptances
The Muse: The Simple Tool that Will Help You Pick the Right Grad School
USNews: How to Make the Final Grad School Enrolment Decision

USNews: How to Handle Graduate School Denials
When “Plan A” Doesn’t Work Out: Graduate School Detour
I Didn’t Get Into Grad School. Now What?
Idealist: What if You’re Denied Admission?

Next Steps

Gaining Experience

Financing Graduate School

Application Timeline

Application Components

The Statement of Purpose

Graduate School Resources

Have Questions?
Zhana Sandeva
Senior Programme Manager, Leadership & Global Citizenship

Contact with questions about applying to graduate school, summer research, writing fellowship and the student associate programme.