Graduate School FAQs
1. How do I find out about graduate programs? What types of things should I look for when researching graduate programs?
2. When should I start looking for graduate programs?
3. Generally, when are application deadlines?
4. How long will it take to get an MA/MS? PhD?
5. What questions should I ask when visiting a graduate program or meeting/emailing professors?
6. What type of funding is available for graduate students?
7. Do I need to take the GRE?
8. What is considered a good GRE score?
9. What is the best way to study for the GRE?
10. When should I take the GRE?
11. What graduate programs are offered at WKU?
There are a number of organizations that rank programs (see our Links page), but you might find it more useful to talk with faculty members in your field. Chances are good that they will be able to point you in the direction of several schools that could be a match for you. Additionally, faculty members can point you in the direction of professional societies in your field. These organizations often have lots of resources for undergraduates interested in advanced studies. Look around on online. Try to find departments where several professors are doing work that interests you.
As you begin collecting information on possible programs, you will want to consider:
- Who teaches in the department? What are the research interests of professors there?
- What type of funding is available? Is it guaranteed for the duration of your study or granted on an annual basis?
- Does the program provide placement assistance after graduation?
- Are the professors receptive to conversations about your interests and/or their work (it is a good idea to email professors you might want to work with)?
- How long will it take to finish the program?
You should begin researching graduate programs during your junior year. You will want to start working on your application in the summer or very early in your senior year.
Application deadlines vary from early fall to late spring. It is very important that you check application deadlines in advance and know your timeline. Allow yourself plenty of time to get all required materials together and take any necessary tests.
The time it takes to complete a graduate degree varies depending on the field/program. MA/MS programs can range from 1-3 years, and PhD programs can range from 4-9 years. If you know you want to get a PhD, applying directly to PhD programs during your senior year can cut down on the time it takes to complete your PhD.
- Is funding provided to everyone? If not, how is it granted?
- What are your research interests?
- Would they be willing to advise you?
- What is the general outline of the program? How many courses do students take? Is there a thesis portion?
- How many students are typically in every classroom?
- How would they describe the relationships between graduate students and between graduate students and faculty?
There are numerous sources of graduate school funding. Graduate funding can come in the form of fellowships, assistanceships, grants, and scholarships. This funding typically comes in four broad categories: internal with no work expectations, internal with work obligations, external with no work expectations, and external with work obligations. Internal funding means that the university is funding your education. Graduate students might grade papers, help a professor with research, or teach classes or discussion sections in exchange for internal funding, which often includes tuition and a stipend to cover living expenses. Numerous government-funded scholarships require a period of government service after graduation. To find external funding, please visit our Scholarships page.
Most graduate programs require a GRE score to complete your application, but not all. When you are researching schools and programs, check to see if you need to take the GRE and/or GRE Subject Tests.
Student can earn up to 1600 points on the GRE verbal and quantitative sections; 800 for each section. The analytical writing section is scored separately on a scale of 1-6. What is considered a good score will vary from program to program. Some programs may put more emphasis on your verbal score, others your quantitative. Visit the website(s) of the program(s) of interest to you, and search for minimum requirements and average GRE scores of accepted students.
You do not have to invest lots of money in a GRE-prep course to do well on the GRE, as long as you make an effort to read about the test and implement the study tips offered in prep-test guides. Dr. Reagan Brown in the Psychology Department at WKU offers a free GRE course every fall (further information can be found on his webpage near the end of the summer). Using study books, like the Princeton Review, Kaplan, and Barron’s texts, can be extremely useful. These resources explain how the test works and how to improve your score. In order to reach your optimal score, you cannot just take practice tests; you should take practice tests in correlation with studying vocabulary, learning the tips, and understanding how the GRE test works.
You should take the GRE at least one year before you plan to begin graduate school (for example, you should take the GRE in the fall of 2011 if you want to begin graduate school in the fall of 2012). That said, taking the GRE sooner gives you more flexibility to retake the exam if you are unsatisfied with your score. Some graduate programs provide GRE deadlines; thus, you should be familiar with the requirements of each of your prospective schools.
WKU offers over 50 graduate programs in a wide variety of fields. As of January 2010, WKU's only doctoral program is in Educational Leadership. Please visit the Graduate Studies website for additional information: http://www.wku.edu/graduate/.