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Graduate school is one type of further education that is completed after undergraduate studies. Other types are professional programs (e.g. nursing, social work) and Post Graduate programs (offered at Colleges and specific to industry). Graduate school times may vary, a Master’s degree can take an additional one to two years after an undergraduate degree. Doctoral/PhD programs can take four to six additional years of study following a Master’s degree.
Research-oriented programs involve conducting independent research under supervision of an established academic scholar. There are two types of academic programs:
Provide advanced study to prepare for a career and/or further research in a specific career area which is not a regulated profession (e.g. Public Policy, Global Health, Social Justice).
Provide specialized skills and qualifications to enter a specific profession which is regulated by a governing body (e.g. Medicine, Law, Teaching). Programs may be course or thesis based and may include some or all of the following:
If you are considering graduate school, you must begin to prepare early.
Take a variety of courses and gain relevant experience to help determine your career and research interests; talk to T.A.s about their experiences; take part in networking activities; participate in job shadowing opportunities; attend program open houses, and talk to professors about graduate programs.
Although many programs look primarily at your final two years, a GPA that is constantly high will impress admission committees.
Graduate applications require between two to three references. Get to know your professors by taking more than one class with those whose research focus interests you, participating in class discussions, attending office hours, and joining clubs that allow professors to get to know you outside of the classroom.
Gain experience through co-op, research experience through senior level thesis courses, and volunteer with professors.
You have explored career goals, researched options, and the requirements for your field of study and determined that graduate school is the next step to enter your career. You must now complete the graduate school application process. Review all program requirements as they do vary based on institution and program. This is a guide to walk you through the components of a graduate school application:
Admissions tests, if required need to be written in advance to ensure scores are received by the admissions deadlines.
All schools will post the minimum average they are looking for.
Most schools ask for three reference letters: Two academic and one personal, but check with the individual institution. The academic references are used to confirm your ability to excel in academically challenging programs.
Personal statements are where you would discuss your research interests and state why you are interested in the institution. You may also include your knowledge and experience and future career path and goals.
This is where you can express your area of interest as well as any research, work, or volunteer initiatives related to the discipline.
If required (GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT), these tests need to be written in advance to ensure scores are received by the admissions deadline.
Contact admissions or the faculty to determine how to make your application stronger. You may need to retake the admission test to increase your score or take time to gain relevant experience for re-application.
Explore your career options with a career advisor.
Research alternative program options.
Finding employment may help you gain experience and clarity in your career goals.
Graduate school can be costly but there are financial supports available to those that apply. Below is some information on funding sources. Several categories of funding are available depending on your individual situation:
Funding may be available through:
Provinces and territories provide student funding for which some graduate programs are eligible. Check with the provincial funding agency where you will be studying for more details.
Investigate both the awards office and the academic departments of the university and program you plan to attend for graduate studies. Universities typically offer awards, fellowships, teaching and research assistant-ships, bursaries, and scholarships—through the university as a whole, the faculty of graduate studies, and/or the program department. Each source of funding may require separate applications.
Foundation grants to individuals online: An online database of over 8,500 foundations and public charity programs that fund students, artists, researchers, and other individual grant-seekers. Up-to-date information on foundations funding scholarships, fellowships, research, and professional support.
There are three research councils founded to provide monetary aid to graduate students and scholars engaged in research (note: some undergraduate awards exist). They focus on three different fields: natural sciences and engineering (NSERC), social sciences and humanities (SHHRC) and health (CIHR). Most programs of study fall within one of these categories and students are typically able to apply to one research council only.
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