Admission & Aid

The Path to Graduate School

photo of students walking outside on campus

Applying to graduate school and accepting a graduate school offer can be a stressful process. Below are some helpful guidelines and resources for navigating through the application and acceptance process for the first time. If you are applying to a program at Wright State, these can help you with that process as well. 

What does applying to graduate school look like?

Most students begin to consider graduate school before their undergraduate degree is finished, although many also begin the application process after they have already earned their degree. Regardless of where you are in your journey, below is a general step-by-step guide with helpful resources and tips on how to successfully apply for graduate school. 

Most programs have application deadlines in December or January. For this reason, the timelines for these steps default to programs with a December 1 application deadline.



Complete in the spring/summer

Before doing any research or gathering any of the necessary materials, ask yourself why you want to go to graduate school. Do you want to make more money? Do you want a particular job that requires a graduate degree? Or do you want to further your knowledge in your field of study? Regardless of the reason(s), keep this in mind when looking for graduate programs to apply to. 


Complete in the spring/summer

The next step is finding programs that fit your needs. Consider your reason(s) for wanting a graduate degree and what specific degree (master’s, doctorate, or professional) you might want. is a great resource if you don’t know which schools offer the program you want. If you know you want to attend graduate school in a certain city, state, or other geographical region, look into programs in those areas to see if they offer what you need. Important criteria to consider when choosing programs include, but aren’t limited to,: 

  • National or regional performance rankings 
  • Acceptance rates and graduation rates, if possible 
  • Cost of attendance 
  • Financial aid availability 
  • Admissions criteria (minimum GPA, GRE scores, prerequisite courses, etc.) 
  • Application fees 
  • Specific faculty members you may want to work with while in school 

Complete in the spring/summer

Once you have a list of programs that appeal to you, it’s a good idea sort them into three categories:

  • Safe schools (those you could probably or almost definitely be accepted into)
  • Attainable schools (those you have an average chance of getting into)
  • Reach schools (those you may be unlikely to get into).

A general rule of thumb is to choose two safe schools, three attainable schools, and two reach schools to apply to. This gives you a total of seven programs. Once you have chosen your seven programs, it’s time to begin preparing your application materials. These may vary from program to program, but virtually all graduate programs will want the following: 

  • Official transcripts from your undergraduate institutions (and graduate institutions, if you have attended them previously) 
  • Official GRE, LSAT, MCAT, or other standardized test scores 
  • Official TOEFL scores (for international students) 
  • Letters of recommendation (2+) from previous professors or employers you have worked with 
  • Personal statement or statements
  • Copies of professional licensure or a professional portfolio, for some programs

Complete before the end of August

First, take the GRE or any other standardized tests your program(s) require. These exams are typically only offered a couple times a year, so it is important you get this done as early as possible. The admission fees for these tests are typically in the several-hundred-dollar range, so the earlier you can get this out of the way, the better. Don’t get these done too early, however, as most programs will not accept test scores from more than five years ago. For more information on these standardized tests, go to: 

Once you have your test scores and they are up to your satisfaction, have them sent off to your school. 


Start by mid-September

Next, it’s time to think about who your letters of recommendation will come from. Most programs require at least 2 or 3 letters from separate references. Think about professors you engaged with in class or who you have worked under for a research project. Also think about employers you did good work for or who have seen your high level of performance. Generally, anyone who can speak on your aptitude for graduate school is an ideal person to write one of these letters for you. Provide each reference with plenty of time (at least a month) to write and send off their letter. Determine from your programs how they want these letters sent, as each program may differ in how they want to receive your letters. 


Start by mid-September

With the test scores and letters taken care of, now it’s time to craft your personal statement(s). Most programs will want just one, while some will require a personal statement and a more specific kind of statement pertaining to your commitment to some area of the program, such as diversity and inclusion.If just one statement, each program will likely ask you to describe how your passion for their area of study originated and what you hope to do after graduating. Be honest, but don’t be too detailed! Most programs have word limits for these statements. Provide yourself with at least two weeks to write each statement. 


Start by early October

For most programs, at this point in your journey, the official transcripts are the last thing you need to send off. Contact your undergraduate institution(s) and any graduate institution(s) you have previously attended to have them send your transcripts off to the programs you plan to apply to. Each program may have slightly different requirements for how they want to receive your transcripts, so be sure you are aware of each program’s specific requirements before having the transcripts sent. 


Start by early October

Most programs won’t require this, but some may want to see copies of your professional licensure or will want to see a professional portfolio. If you can, have these sent off via your programs’ preferred methods in conjunction with your transcripts. 


Start by late October

Once you finish, double-check on each program’s online portal that each has received all of the materials you sent. Make sure everything is in order before you formally submit your application. Many programs will require you to fill out an online application in conjunction with the materials you send them, so be sure this is completed before you submit.

Hooray! You have officially applied to graduate school. Best of luck! 

What does accepting a graduate school offer look like? 

Congratulations! You have received an offer from a graduate program. But what happens if you receive multiple offers? How will you know where to go? When thinking about which graduate program offer to accept, consider these factors: 

  • Program alignment with your personal and professional goals 
  • Presence of faculty or mentors you want to work with 
  • Full-time and/or part-time options offered 
  • Tuition costs 
  • Cost-of-living in the area you will be in 
  • Financial aid offered by the program, if any 
  • Continuing academic, scholarly, or professional requirements for the program 
  • Program and/or school resources 
  • Social environment 
  • Nearby employment opportunities 

What to do after accepting an offer? 

Once you have determined which program offer(s) you intend to accept, be sure to notify the program by their preferred method of contact (usually email or postal mail). A representative from the program should be in contact with you shortly after this occurs to go over the next steps for registration and orientation. Congratulations, you are officially a graduate student!