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Prepare for graduate & professional school

Should You Attend Graduate or Professional School?

Many consider attending graduate school to gain knowledge in a particular field of interest, to expand career opportunities and increase earning potential, or to work closely with experts in a field. Graduate school involves an in-depth course of study within an academic area while a professional graduate program is for a specific career path such as business, medical, or law school. The Post-Graduate and Summer Outcomes data shows that, in 2020, 39% of MIT graduating seniors planned to pursue advanced degrees right after graduation.

Give yourself plenty of time to make this decision. The graduate school application timeline below will help you stay on track.

Self-Assessment and Decision Making

Would graduate or professional school help you reach your goals? Self assessment is important when deciding if graduate school is critical to your career plan and if the timing is right. Some key questions to ask yourself when starting your graduate program search include:

  • Why do you want to attend graduate or professional school?
  • What types of career paths are you planning to pursue?
  • What values, skill sets, environment, and relationships will help you thrive as a student and professional?

As part of the self-assessment process, you can:

Academic Preparation

Strong undergraduate academic preparation is essential for graduate and professional school. Key skills include critical thinking, analytical abilities, research abilities, written communication, verbal communication, time management, self-motivation, and self-discipline. Graduate and professional schools require a strong undergraduate GPA, and you will be asked to submit a transcript with your application.

  • Be sure to investigate if any courses are prerequisites for the programs you wish to enter.
  • Departmental academic advisors can help you plan your academic schedule and Student Support Services can provide support, if needed.
  • MIT faculty in your field of interest can also provide advice.

Types of Graduate and Professional Degrees

Which degree makes the most sense for you? Talking to people in the field can help you decide. As you prepare for those conversations, learn about the types of degrees below:

  • Research Master’s: Typically one to two years, designed for students to gain expertise in research or scholarship, often a step towards a PhD.
  • Professional Master’s: Typically one to two years, often a terminal degree, meant to prepare a student to work in a specific field such as engineering, business, education, or counseling.
  • Research Doctorate: Also known as a PhD or ScD. Takes a minimum of four to six years of full-time study and involves course work and a major research project.
  • Professional Doctorate: Typically refers to the MD for medical practice and JD for law.

Gain Experience

Graduate and professional schools look for demonstrated interest in the field you are planning to study. Gaining research (especially important for PhD candidates), job, internship or volunteer experience in the field, in addition to what you have studied as an undergraduate or Master’s student, will help you build a competitive application.


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Guide for Deciding Where to Apply

This guide can be helpful to applicants when developing the list of medical and health professions schools you will apply to.

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Researching Medical & Health Professions Schools – Sample School List

Use the list provided to help you conduct research on those medical and health professions schools you are interested in and those you will eventually apply to.

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Purdue Online Writing Lab: Writing the Personal Statement

Writing the Personal Statement

by the Purdue Online Writing Lab

The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:

1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:

This allows you maximum freedom …

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Interview Rooms Available for Student & Postdoc Use

Career Advising & Professional Development (E17-294) has private interview rooms which can be reserved if you need a space for a virtual employer interview. These rooms are available to current students and postdocs on weekdays from 10am – 4pm.

To reserve …

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What are the best majors for pre-law students?

In short, any major is perfectly fine. You may be surprised to hear this, and think that you have to be on a pre-law track. In fact, at my first-year orientation programs students often express surprise, and then relief, that …

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Featured Resources

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This guide can be helpful to applicants when developing the list of medical and health professions schools you will apply …

Use the list provided to help you conduct research on those medical and health professions schools you are interested in …

Career Advising & Professional Development (E17-294) has private interview rooms which can be reserved if you need a space for …

In short, any major is perfectly fine. You may be surprised to hear this, and think that you have to …

Here it is: your starter guide for developing the knowledge and skills you’ll need throughout your career. Compiled by our …