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Drinko Center for Undergraduate Research

Frequently Asked Questions about Graduate School

Is it expensive to attend Graduate School?

A: It depends on the field. In most STEM fields, graduate schools will pay you if you are interested in a PhD! For STEM PhD programs, stipends typically range from $20,000 - $40,000 per year, paid tuition, and many graduate programs come with free health insurance. If you are looking for a master's degree or a non-STEM PhD, graduate degrees can be more expensive, as they often do not come coupled with stipends or tuition remissions. If you're not sure, talk with Dr. Lackey or your advisor in your major! 


Should I do a Ph. D. or a Masters?

A: That will depend on your chosen career. In STEM fields, principle investigator positions (ie, the person who leads a lab or leads projects) in industry or academia usually require a Ph.D., while technician and research assistantships often require a Masters degree. In other fields, a master's degree may be more adaptable than a doctorate. If you are not sure what you want to do, look for programs that allow you to enroll for a Masters degree that is convertible to a Ph.D. track after two years. In STEM fields, masters degrees and PhDs are often coupled together; you can enroll in a masters program that gives you the option to convert to PhD track after two years, and many PhD programs have an "off-ramp" for a masters degree after you have passed certain requirements if you decide that finishing the full PhD is not the correct move for you. 


What are the entrance requirements for graduate school?

A: Most graduate schools set their own minimum GPA requirement. Before the pandemic, most graduate programs required you to take the GRE General Test only, although this requirement is slowly being phased out, post-pandemic. Only a few graduate schools require a GRE subject test, but many recommend it. Even if the GRE subject test is not required or recommended, if you take the test and get a good score you should include it in your application. Many graduate schools will ask you to provide a personal statement or an essay. If you are asked to do this, make sure you get help with writing it! Ask someone to proofread it, check your grammar, and make sure you are presenting yourself in the best way possible. To find out what the entrance requirements are for a particular program, go to the website for that program and search "entrance requirements."


How and when should I start looking and applying for graduate schools?

A: Most students start the application process for graduate school before their senior year, assembling a list of schools to apply to, working on personal statements, etc. The preparation process starts much earlier, though, as the earlier you think about research experiences that will prepare you for graduate school, professors who will write you strong letters of recommendation, etc. the better!