Graduate & Professional School

Graduate School

Graduate or professional school, more so than undergraduate, is about preparing for a career in a particular field. Choosing to attend graduate/professional school is an important and highly personal decision. Before you leap, investigate where a graduate degree can really take you and consider the timing.

Getting Started

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Researching Graduate Programs

It’s important to select the right program and the right institution for your graduate studies. This requires a lot of careful research and comparison between programs and often, a visit to the school(s).

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Comparing Degree Programs

It's important to ask questions and thoroughly compare graduate programs. Here, you'll find a list of key things to examine as you begin to narrow down your search.

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Financing Grad School

Here you'll find brief descriptions of the types of aid available for graduate students beyond Federal loans.

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Download Our Grad School Guide

Get our most comprehensive guide to graduate school with our downloadable PDF designed to take you from beginning your search to completing your application.

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Application Components: What You'll Likely Need to Apply

  • GRE: General Test and Subject Tests

    The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test is the most commonly used test for graduate school admission. It measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytic writing skills acquired over a long period of time and not related to any specific field of study. It can be taken at home or at a test center. Beginning September 22, 2023, the testing time for the GRE General Test will be reduced by half, from just under 4 hours to just under 2, and scores will be sent more quickly.  

    GRE Subject Tests are offered in only math, physics, and psychology, in a computer-delivered format as of September 2023. (The GRE Chemistry Test was discontinued after the April 2023 administration.) These measure content taught in undergraduate programs that is important for graduate study in that discipline. The tests are intended for individuals who have an undergraduate major or extensive background in the field. 
    Be sure to do your research so you will know well in advance what tests you need to take and will have ample time to prepare. Find out more and register for the GRE at

    Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)

    The GMAT is for anyone applying for a master's in business administration. Learn more and register at for a remote or in-person test.

    Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

    The MCAT is for those applying to medical schools. Learn about the MCAT, review preparation materials. and register at The test is in-person at test sites.

    Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)

    The LSAT is for law school ( You can choose to test in person or remotely when you register.

    Test Preparation

    There is no one right way to study for these tests. That said, it is imperative that you have worked with the test in the way it will be administered, that you are familiar with the format and strategies, and that you have studied enough to know that you are as prepared as possible. 

    Preparation possibilities include:

    - Make use of on-line and free prep materials available through the testing organizations for each test listed above. Khan Academy offers free materials for the MCAT and LSAT.

    MagooshKaplanPrinceton Review , and many others offer paid courses with a range of fees. Do a search on “reviews of best GRE (or other) test prep”

    - Gather together a study group with your peers

    - Hire a tutor for one or more subject area

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  • Guidelines for Obtaining References

    Who? You will typically need two to three academic references from people who can write about your skills as a student. One of these references may include an employer or supervisor if you have had work experience in a related field. For alumni who have been away from school for a while, select those who can speak to your skills, accomplishments, and likelihood to succeed in the graduate programs that you are applying to.

    Ask First! It is a courtesy to your recommenders that you speak with them beforehand about writing a letter for you. Do not presume that a faculty member or former supervisor will write on your behalf. Letters of recommendation are written strictly on a voluntary basis; no one is obliged to write them. Faculty members or other potential recommenders, therefore, may decline to write if they so choose. 

    Give Enough Notice. It is helpful if you ask at least 30 days before you need the letter and preferably longer, as it takes time to write a good letter and writers often have other commitments and deadlines.

    Provide info to the recommender.  When recommenders have agreed to write, help them make their letters as specific and useful as possible by providing the following:

    - The deadlines

    - A copy of your transcript (it can be unofficial)

    - Your resume

    - A statement about what specifically you are applying for, and why (perhaps a copy of your application essay)

    - Instructions about how to upload or where to send the letters of recommendation (e.g., to you, to the institution, or to a third party)

    - Ask them for confirmation that the letters have been sent  

    Additionally, for faculty recommenders, ask if they'd like you to give them:

    - The evaluations you received in their course(s)

    - Copies of papers you wrote or other samples of your work in their courses

    - Your resume

    Staying on Top of the Process

    In general, professors and others want to help you and are pleased to write on your behalf. Everyone is juggling a lot of responsibilities and the priority status of your recommendation might fall as urgent projects arise. If someone has agreed to write on your behalf, they made a commitment to you, but may need some timely reminders. It's important to find ways to approach your recommenders to remind them gently of deadlines, and to ask for confirmation that the letters have been sent.

    It is important that you (not your letter writers) stay on top of deadlines and manage your graduate school application. Take nothing for granted.

    – We encourage you to send an email a week to ten days before your application is due, with a gentle reminder that the deadline is approaching. Ask if they need anything from you, and for confirmation they'll be able to complete by the deadline.

    – If you've not heard anything a few days before the deadline, repeat with another gentle but urgent reminder.

    When all is done, remember to thank recommenders for their assistance, and be sure to let them know the outcomes of your applications.

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    Recommendation Storage Service

    If you would like to collect and store letters of recommendation, the online service Interfolio has a very strong reputation; they've been in existence since 1999 and are used by many schools. Read more about their Dossier service, (As of 2023, there's no charge to to get your letters stored there and the cost is $60/year to send to as many places as you'd like.)

  • Hampshire transcripts are sent from Central Records. Before graduation, you can and should read their web pages about your transcript, which can be found on the transcript request and information page. When you ask for the transcript to be sent, be sure to allow time for Central Records to process and send it, whether it is being sent by mail or electronic delivery.

    The Hampshire transcript gives a lot of good information to graduate programs. Your evaluations usually speak volumes about the type of work you are capable of and the probability that you will do well in graduate school. Your Division III evaluation can be very impressive, as it usually refers to a complex and advanced level of work you have completed (or are completing). 

    Alums and studentsread more specific info (login required) on applying to grad school with a Hampshire transcript.

  • A Personal Statement is often the only part of your application where you tell your story in your own words, which provides important insight about your candidacy for admissions committees. It needs to be thoughtful and well-written, with emphasis on what you think is important that they should know about you. 

    Remember, you are a serious student and a thoughtful and interesting person. You have enjoyed a fabulous undergraduate education and have completed a Div III project that helps you to stand out. You will be an asset to your graduate program and to your chosen profession. A beautifully prepared essay will confirm this. Here's a few tips to get you started.

    Essay Tips

    - Be yourself, not a person you think the committee seeks.

    - Be careful that your essay is not generic/could go to any school (unless you are, in fact, using a centralized application service and have no choice but to write one essay for all schools).

    - You do not want your essay to sound dry and boring. Is the information you are choosing to include interesting, relevant, and memorable?

    - The essay is not a simple list of accomplishments; reflect on your accomplishments, showing depth and self-awareness in your evaluation of experiences and the personal meaning of accomplishments.

    - This is a personal statement; thus it is often appropriate and useful to include personal information as context for learning and growth.

    - Make sure you are including what is important, in light of your plans for graduate study and career.

    - Write in a positive and upbeat tone; project confidence and enthusiasm. Reframe any negativity as a positive statement.

    - Be clear about why you want to be at that particular school.

    - Be honest. Are you being yourself and revealing yourself? Sometimes it is helpful for the committee to hear about setbacks, and what it took to rebound.

    - Organize your thoughts - clear writing is a result of clear thinking. Read the question(s) carefully and consider which two or three points you wish to impress upon the reader as you answer the questions.

    - Each paragraph should deal with one main idea; each sentence should lead naturally to the next. 

    - Write in an active voice, as if you're having a conversation with the graduate admissions committee.

    For more advice on the Do's and Dont's of personal statement writing and other pointers to help navigate the process, 

    Download the Personal Statement Handout

    Feeling stuck? A SPARC advisor would be happy to provide feedback on your personal statement. Please make an appointment with one of us and send a draft at least one day in advance of the meeting so we can provide thoughtful comments. It's always helpful to have a second set of eyes on your work and to have a thought partner to support you from the first line to the finish line!

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