Going to Graduate School:

Social Science Grad School Night (usually in October each year) -- Information packet

You can't afford grad school!  -- or can you?    Scholarships for Grad School     Should you take a break?   Are there graduate programs in WGSS?     How do I decide which graduate school?   GRE information     What's the process for applying to grad school?   What should I be doing as an undergrad to prepare?


Don't assume this!  We repeat:  DO NOT ASSUME THIS!  Most graduate program provide at least two mechanisms to help you afford to be in graduate school:  fee remissions (ie, your department pays your tuition or a portion of it); and stipends (for performing a variety of jobs that grad students have the expertise to do).  ASK US!  We're happy to explain how this works.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR GRADUATE SCHOOLNote:  This list includes ONLY national scholarships!  Most graduate programs have an array of financial options, including sometimes scholarships only for grad students admitted to their own programs, so be sure to ask the school to which you're applying about their options.

LGBT HEART Scholarship Fund for the Graduate Health Professions.  The scholarship is open to "out" LGBT students pursuing advanced degrees in the health professions. For a complete list of application criteria and guidelines, please visit our website.  www.lgbtheart.org


  • Most students who are considering advanced degrees also consider taking a year or two off from school. Most parents worry about that decision.
  • In fact, most graduate programs look very favorably on applicants who have taken some time out of college. Such students usually have a clearer idea why they want a graduate degree, a better sense of the specifics of what they want to study (a great benefit, since graduate degrees usually focus and specialize to a much greater extent than undergraduate degrees do), and a better sense of their own skills and talents in practice.
  • Parents worry that their child will never return to school if they decide to stop out. While that is always possible, most students are better off finding another path than they are wasting a great deal of money to earn a graduate degree they aren't sure they want.



  • For many fields, particularly if the degree you want to pursue is a research degree (i.e., a PhD), the best way to decide which grad school you want is to first find the faculty members with whom you want to work. So, you need to know who's doing work in the area that interests you. To determine this, start with the academic databases in Murphy Library, and search by topics. For example, go to Women's Resources International, and search for, say, "violence against women," or "lesbian economics."
  • You'll want to know a great deal more, about both the department and the university. For example, you will want to know whether the department or the institution has placement services to help you find a job once you've completed your doctorate. Study any particular institution's website carefully. Don't assume that "career services" are for graduate students unless they say so.
  • Talk to some people at the institution you're considering.
  • One of the best sites lets you search by subject and by school name: gradschools.com.
  • Don't forget to visit the websites of the universities you are interested in as part of your search. Here is a site that indexes colleges and universities, an easy way to explore the schools in which you are interested: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/CLAS/american-universities.html It may save you time to use the search engine for the specific university’s site after you access its homepage.
  • Peterson’s (http://petersons.com) allows you to search for graduate schools and also has good general information about graduate work.

GRE INFORMATION (and other testing info)

  • If you are on campus, ETS/CBT (Educational Testing Services/Computer Based Testing) in the Counseling and Testing Center can administer the GRE test to you right here!  They also provide free CDs of the GRE Powerprep program that helps you prepare for the exam.  For more information on taking the GRE, go here:  http://www.uwlax.edu/Counseling/listoftests.htm#GRE or call ETS/CBT at (608) 785-8968.
  • Testing information is also available for the GRE at (http://www.gre.org/splash.html). You can register online to take this computer-based test at a site near you.
  • There are sites were you can take free sample GREs too. Here's one possibilty:. http://www.800score.com/gre-download.html


Applying to graduate school takes a lot of time, energy and money. Students should start planning during their junior year (if not earlier!). There is a lot of useful information below. Be sure to read it before seeing your advisor.


Graduate schools are looking for strong students with the initiative and ability to do graduate work. In particular, they need to know that YOU know why you want that particular degree. Internship and/or research experience is valued because it signals a graduate school that you have a clue about your future endeavors. Strong grades and strong evaluations also play a major role. Strong GREs can secure a spot; however, poor GREs (if offset by other strong records) will not usually harm a student.


  • Decide whether graduate school is right for you.
  • Define the area of concentration and degree that you will pursue.
  • Research schools and programs and choose a range of places to which you want to apply.
  • Complete the applications to these programs.
  • Attend interviews (if applicable) and make a final decision regarding which program you will attend.


  • RESEARCH INDICATES THAT EARLY PLANNING BENEFITS APPLICANTS! But take this timeline with a grain of salt: you CAN get accepted into a good graduate program by another path. Prior planning remains the key.


  • Pursue extensive career exploration.
  • Volunteer at an organization of interest to you.
  • Join campus organizations appropriate to your major and minor.


  • Do an internship.
  • Take statistics and research design courses (sophomore year for some majors).
  • If possible, get involved in faculty research.
  • Investigate graduate programs. Your major department, Murphy Library, and Career Services should have resources to help with this. Professional associations in your field of study often provide a list of graduate programs. Several books rank programs and provide information about acceptance rates, costs, and the like.
  • Send for information and applications using the phone numbers and/or addresses found in the resources discussed above.
  • Start to plan and study for the GREs. Take practice tests. You may want to take the GREs during your junior year. See Career Services or the Counseling Center for information and applications. They also have practice GREs on computer that you can take for a small fee.


  • Visit Career Services to polish your resume and interviewing skills.
  • Take the GREs in early fall (or before).
  • Collect the applications for all the schools in which you are interested. Organize them by application deadline, keeping in mind that financial aid applications are usually due earlier than the program's deadline.
  • Secure the finances secured for the application process.
  • CAST A WIDE NET! Apply to as many schools as possible. Geographic difference will help your application. Apply to some schools below your ideal, as potential "Plan B" schools. Do not apply to schools you know you would not want to attend if you were accepted.
  • Give your faculty members all your recommendation forms at once (if possible) and give them lots of time.

Shamelessly swiped and adapted from UWL's Psychology website. Thanks to Dr. Morgan for permission.