Planning for Graduate School

Graduate school is a big commitment. The first thing you should do is decide if graduate school is the right choice for you. Would it benefit you to work for a year or two first? What is the standard career path in your field? If you decide to apply, you should start one year in advance.

There are several things to keep in mind when deciding if a program is right for you. Start by looking at programs with scholars you admire, the degree you want, and principles you agree with. Location can be an important factor, also. If you are very liberal and hate cold weather, you will struggle at a conservative university in Minnesota. Graduate school is tough enough, do not make yourself miserable!

Once you have picked a few schools, write to the professor you want to work with and ask about the program. Tell them about your research interests and why you are interested in that school. Wesleyan’s McNair Program offers advice on the wording for this letter.

When you are looking at a university, find out the following:

  • What are the English proficiency requirements (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS)? Are they waived if you went to a U.S. high school or college? 
  • What are the exams you need to submit (e.g. GMAT, GRE)?
  • What documents do you need to submit? The following documents are usually asked for by graduate schools in their applications. Ask your advisor for discipline-specific information about what to include.
    • Statement of Purpose: This is your opportunity to show the department why you want this degree. Explain what you intend to do with your degree and why you want to study this particular topic. If you can, explain why you want to study with a specific person at the department.
    • Research Proposal: This document explains what you want to study and demonstrates your ability to write about research.
    • Writing Sample: Your sample shows how you write, whether you know how to use citations, and if you can use the right level of formality. Ask your advisor for help with choosing your best sample. 
    • Letters of Recommendation: You will usually be asked to submit 2-3 recommendation letters, at least 1 from a professor and one who can attest to your character.
  • Does the school provide financial support? Do they offer research or teaching assistant positions? If they do, are they for the entire time? What about tuition remission, stipends, and scholarships? Is financial need a factor?
  • Can you afford to live there? New York City costs a lot more than Denver, Colorado. Create a tentative plan for your finances before you agree to a program.
  • The McNair Program offers advice for Wesleyan students from under-represented groups considering graduate studies. Take advantage of this resource if it applies to you. 

Maintaining your SEVIS Record 

Attending Graduate School Immediately after Wes

  • If your new program will begin within five months after your program ends at Wesleyan, you may be eligible to transfer your SEVIS record
  • You must request for your SEVIS record to be transferred within your 60-day grace period following the end of your Wes program   
    • If you will remain at Wesleyan and start a new degree program, you will need to request a new I-20 so that your SEVIS record reflects your new program and you remain in status

Attending Graduate School after OPT

  • If you do OPT after you finish your program at Wes, you may be eligible to transfer your SEVIS record to your next program when you complete your OPT
  • You must be:
    • Within your 60-day grace period following the completion of your OPT
    • Starting your new program no more than five months after your employment end date
  • You will need to request your SEVIS record to be transferred to your new program or if you will remain at Wesleyan, you will need to request a new I-20 so that your SEVIS record reflects your new program and you remain in status
    • You will need to do this if you do OPT during the summer following your Wes program and would like to start a new program in the fall