Tips for returning students

Implement these strategies for getting admitted to graduate school after taking time off.

Thinking about grad school after years in the workforce?

Consider getting a master's degree first

Seek admission to a master’s program with a good reputation, preferably with a research/thesis component. Push yourself to get high grades. Complete a thesis you will be proud to write about in your Ph.D. applications. And get to know professors who can furnish recommendations when you go on for your Ph.D.

Enroll in classes as a non-matriculating student

Ask the graduate admissions chair in your intended program(s) which upper division or graduate level classes might increase your potential for admission. If you can’t get specific advice, enroll in foundational courses that will expand your knowledge and improve needed skills, and focus on obtaining "A" grades.

Seek out research opportunities

Volunteer to conduct research with a faculty member from your alma mater, participate in an internship for an academically-focused project, or seek out other research opportunities.

Cultivate mentors

Ask for guidance from faculty advisors and the graduate admissions chair at institutions where you’d like to apply. Seek advice from graduate students enrolled in your proposed area of study.

Highlight your experience

Use your statement of purpose to focus on the skills you acquired while not in school, and what these enable you to bring to the program.

Current students: taking a break before grad school?

  • Take the GRE during your junior or senior year while the material is still fresh in your mind. The scores are good for five years.
  • Build experience with a job in the field that interests you.
  • Take continuing education courses that expand your knowledge base.
  • Stay in touch with your professors.
  • Read articles and, if possible, attend special lectures by experts in your field.
  • Visit potential schools and talk with students and faculty.