Graduate & Professional School

Graduate and professional schools offer an opportunity to gain advanced knowledge in areas of interest and/or to accomplish a career goal. Making an informed decision about pursuing a graduate (Master’s or Doctorate) or professional degree (M.D., J.D., M.B.A. or other degrees that prepare you for a particular career) requires self-exploration and research. Applying to graduate or professional school takes time so it is recommended that planning and preparation begin 18 months before you start your program.

Graduation cap, diploma, books, briefcase, curriculum vitae

If you need assistance with planning your graduate or professional school journey, learn how to schedule an appointment with a CDC counselor to discuss your graduate or professional school application, personal statement, interview preparation and more.

There are many reasons to attend graduate or professional school. This personal decision may include factors such as:

Field Requirements

You need an advanced degree to enter certain occupations such as becoming a lawyer, doctor, or speech therapist. Not all professions require an advanced degree.

Professional or Personal Growth

Attending graduate or professional school allows you to learn crucial information in a specific field of study that can help you grow as an individual.

Career Change

If you have experience in one area but are looking to make a change to a different area, graduate or professional school may help you make that transition.

Income Increase

Receiving advanced education can help you increase your income as you will be bringing advanced skill sets to the employer through your education.

The process of deciding to pursue an advanced degree also involves conducting a personal evaluation. It is important that you assess the following factors:


Are you ready to spend more time in school to pursue your career goals beyond your bachelor’s degree? Do you get energized when thinking about the area you plan to study?


Have you thought about if going to graduate or professional school is a good fit for you and your unique capabilities?

Career Path

Is an advanced degree needed for your chosen career path? Will obtaining the advanced degree help you in your chosen field?

Support System

Going to graduate or professional school is a big commitment in terms of your time and finances. Do you have the support of those in your life such as family and significant others to help you both inside and outside of the classroom?


You can decide to go to graduate school right after you graduate with your undergraduate degree or you can work in the field for a couple of years first. The timing depends on a lot of different factors in terms of the advanced study you are pursuing.

Thinking about these questions is crucial to help clarify your career goals and direct you to a graduate program that will be a good match. If you are struggling to answer these questions or want to discuss your questions about going to graduate or professional school, learn how to schedule an appointment with a CDC counselor

Thoroughly researching graduate or professional schools will significantly enhance your ability to make a good decision and help prioritize which schools match your educational and career goals. Consider how important the following criteria are to you when evaluating programs:

Institution Characteristics

  • Institution size
  • Campus culture
  • Racial diversity
  • Geographic location
  • Weather

Program Characteristics

  • Program accreditation
  • Cost and financial aid (fellowships, grants, loans, scholarships)
  • Faculty to student ratio
  • Program length
  • Required entrance exams

Websites for Researching Graduate and Professional Schools

The following websites can help you compare programs:

Faculty can be another excellent source of information. Discuss your interest with them and ask them to suggest potential graduate programs that match your goals. Additional sources to consider are currently enrolled graduate students. Conduct informational interviews with students, asking questions regarding the campus environment, faculty accessibility, program diversity and employment opportunities. Learn how to request an interview on the CDC Informational Interviews page. Other ways to learn about programs include attending information sessions and open houses as well as sitting in on a class, if available.

Graduate awards are usually given based on past academic performance and/or financial need. Financial aid for graduate and professional schools is offered in different forms, including grants and scholarships, fellowships and assistantships, and loans.

Grants and Scholarships

Awarded based on financial need and/or academic performance. This "gift assistance" does not obligate the recipient to repay the award.

Fellowships and Assistantships

Available through your department of study and/or they may be funded by the state. These types of awards may cover part or all of your tuition and provide stipends.


Available through a variety of private and government sources. Student loans must be repaid, but feature lower rates of interest and/or deferred payment options. Apply for loans at each institution to which you have applied for admission through the Financial Aid Office. Also, check with banks, credit unions or educational loan organizations for private loans.

Additional Resources

Research additional graduate and professional school financial resources using the following websites:

Application policies vary among institutions and even departments within the same institutions. Make sure you have obtained the most recent information from schools to which you are applying. You may be required to supply the following in order to be considered for admission to a graduate program:

Completed Application

Be sure that each application you submit is complete, accurate and on time.


An official transcript from the Registrar's office must be sent directly from the institutions you have attended to the schools to which you are applying. Contact the CSULB Registrar’s Office for more information about how to send your transcripts.

Statement of Purpose/Personal Statement

The statement of purpose/personal statement shows the admissions committee how you think and your writing ability. Your goal in writing a statement of purpose is to create a portrait that is both persuasive and personal. It should be a concise, well-written essay about your background, knowledge of the field and your reasons for pursuing graduate study in the field or profession you have chosen. The statement of purpose/personal statement is different for every program, so make sure to follow the prompt. For assistance with your personal statement and graduate school application process, contact the CSULB Graduate Center.

Admissions Examinations

Schools will designate which qualifying examinations are required for your chosen discipline. The CSULB College of Professional & International Education (CPIE) offers graduate entrance exam preparation courses. More specifically, CPIE offers GMAT and GRE prep courses. The Graduate Center offers GRE preparation courses for CSULB students three times a year. Additionally, the Graduate Center has compiled a list of the most common graduate school entrance exams with links to each website. Do note, many entrance exams offer fee waivers to eligible students. You will find this information on each of the entrance exams websites. If you need assistance with preparing for the exams, academic coaches at the CSULB Learning Center can meet with you to discuss strategies.

These are the most common entrance exams for graduate and professional schools:

Plan to take the appropriate entrance examination during your junior year or at the latest during the fall of your senior year if you plan to go to graduate school immediately after college.

Letters of Recommendation

Most graduate programs will require three to four letters of recommendation. The letters are supposed to vouch for your undergraduate preparation, ability to study at the graduate level and commitment to the proposed field of study. The individuals you ask to write your recommendations can impact how you are perceived as an applicant.

Your best choices for recommenders are:

  • Undergraduate major professors
  • Other professors
  • Employers
  • Advisors
  • Teacher’s Assistants (TAs)
  • Colleagues

Provide your recommenders with a resume of your professional goals and academic background. For more information about letters of recommendation and the graduate school application process, contact the CSULB Graduate Center.

Writing Samples, Tapes, Portfolios (ePortfolio) and Auditions

These items may be requested for consideration to enter specific programs (e.g. fine arts, design, film, music or architecture). Be prepared to submit any additional information that is requested to enhance your opportunity for acceptance.

Application Fee

Each application must be accompanied by a fee. Include a check or money order for the required application fee.

Personal Interview

An interview may be required before admission is granted. In addition to being an important factor in gaining admission, it provides you with the opportunity to assess the program. Access interview preparation resources on the CDC Interviewing page.

The resources below can assist you in your research and preparation for graduate or professional school: