Graduate and Professional School

Is Graduate School Right For You?

There can be many advantages to getting an advanced degree, such as higher income potential and career advancement. Even so, maybe you’re still left wondering whether you’re making a wise decision. After all, going to graduate school is a huge investment of your time, energy, and dollars.

Essentially, you need to consider if your ideal profession requires a graduate degree, when and where you want to pursue it, and if you can afford to go to graduate school. Knowing how a graduate program will prepare you for your ideal profession is also something you will need to address in your applications. Talking with professors, TAs, alumni, and a career coach is a good idea for making an informed decision.

Common Types of Graduate Degrees

  • Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Science (M.S.) and Master of Education (M.Ed.): usually 1-2 year programs that include focused coursework and either a comprehensive examination, thesis, or practical experience;
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.): anywhere between 4-10 years to complete (depending on the discipline) and focus on independent, original research.

Common Types of Professional Degrees: 

  • Master of Business Administration (M.B.A): 1-2 year program;
  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.): 4 year program plus a residency of 3-8 years;
  • Juris Doctor (J.D.): usually 3 years to complete, required to practice law.

 Learn more about law school, medical school, and other health programs.

UCSC Silicon Valley Extension provides certification and postbac programs to help advance your career. 

Components of the Application

Most graduate school applications require the following:

Application Timeline

Most application deadlines fall between December and February of the preceding year (professional programs such as medical and law school have earlier dates in the summer). However, leave plenty of time to research programs and gather application materials (16 months is recommended).

It is also common to take gap/experience years after graduating and before applying to programs. This is generally expected if applying to professional programs.

The following is a guideline for preparing for graduate school programs (masters and doctorate programs):

During the spring/summer before you apply:

  • Research programs by talking with faculty, graduate students, and alumni
  • Collect information about the application requirements. Each program may have different requirements.
  • Order transcripts
  • Write a personal statement (have faculty and career coach review)
  • Ask for letters of recommendation (provide writers at least a couple of months notice)
  • Register and prepare for the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc. (if needed) 

During the fall:

  • Finalize personal statement and/or statement of purpose
  • Collect letters of recommendation
  • Apply to programs
  • Apply for financial aid

See upcoming graduate & professional school fairs.