Graduate & Professional School

While the vast majority of Wesleyan alumni eventually complete graduate or professional degrees, the decision of which degree and when to pursue it should be very carefully considered. You will be making a great investment of time, lost income, and tuition and fees, expenditures which should be balanced by your expected return on investment and commitment to the work you seek.

Arts and Sciences

In many fields of arts and sciences, a PhD is a necessary step toward a career in academe, and may also be necessary for those in industry, the nonprofit sector, or the government. Here are the steps to take when considering graduate education:

  • Is a graduate degree necessary?
    Ask professionals in your field of interest whether a graduate degree is necessary, whether a master’s is sufficient, and what programs they find to be well respected. Start with referrals from faculty, and expand on that list with alumni found on Wesconnect and LinkedIn. Familiarize yourself with the current state of the job market for those with that degree, and what it’s forecasted to be by the time you finish.
  • Begin researching programs
    Ask Wesleyan faculty about their experiences and recommendations. Think about the research you intend to conduct—who is doing cutting edge work in that field? Who is working on research questions aligned with your interests? Could they be your thesis advisor? Consider reaching out to graduate school faculty with whom you have a particular interest in working. Also, check to see if the department publishes employment outcomes of its graduates. Will you have access to the university’s career office, and is there a dedicated advisor for graduate students on staff?
  • How will you finance your degree?

     If you are seeking a PhD, look for programs for which tuition is waived and where you will be able to support yourself through either teaching or research. If you will be teaching, ask about summer stipends as well. For master’s programs, explore all your options for financial aid in the form of grants and federal loans before resorting to private loans, which can carry high interest rates. Public libraries—including the Russell Library on Broad Street in Middletown—are the best source of information about grants, as they often subscribe to databases that will allow you to search for private funding based on your personal criteria. Such tools will save you considerable time over relying on the Web.

  • Prepare for the GRE

    Some programs require only the general exam, but many want to see scores from subject tests as well. Consider taking the GRE while you’re still at Wesleyan and in “test taking mode” even if you don’t plan to apply right away—the scores are good for five years. Take a computer-based sample test to gauge your performance before paying for an expensive test preparation program.

  • Write your personal statement

    Your personal statement should focus on why that department is the best fit for you in terms of both your academic interests and career goals. A good source for examples is Donald Asher’s Graduate Admission Essays.

    If applying for a PhD, explain the research question you wish to conduct and how you plan to go about it. Be specific about with whom you would work, and cite at least two to three faculty members who are doing relevant research. For PhD programs it is the faculty themselves, not an admission office, who are determining your fate, and they will want to know from the start the likely candidates to be your dissertation advisor.

  • Line up references

    Consider whom to ask carefully. PhD programs will want academic references, while some practical master’s programs may favor a mix of professors and employment supervisors. Plan to speak with potential references about your career plans and why you chose that particular degree and the schools to which you are applying. Give recommenders plenty of time—six weeks is a good target—to complete the relevant forms. This process is very time consuming, and you will need them to be thoughtful and be able to put in the time necessary to best represent your candidacy. Check in with them well before the deadlines to ensure that they are on track to meet them.


Education is a popular career with Wesleyan alumni, and many teach after graduation. There are a number of different routes into teaching. These options include, but are not limited to, the traditional teaching certificate or master's degree, alternative and accelerated programs, national and regional programs, or going directly into teaching at a private or independent school.

If you plan to pursue a career in a public school system, you will likely need state certification, either before you start or within a year or two of employment. Each state has different requirements for certification, so the best way to proceed is to contact the education department or licensing office in the state where you hope to teach. You will want to examine whether a post-collegiate program or a more extensive graduate program fits your needs. If you are committed to career in K-12 teaching you may wish to look for the cheapest, most expedient route to certification. However, if you’re considering a longer term goal of administration, policy work, or academe, you may want a more robust, prestigious program that could lead to doctoral work in your chosen area.