Graduate School Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to take some time off before going to graduate school?
Yes, this is very common, and is a good idea for many people. Taking a year or more off may allow you to gain life and work experience, give you more time to prepare your application and, if relevant, work to enhance your credentials (such as GRE scores or foreign language skills), and give you a chance to reflect on what you want to do. You should not worry that you will lose your “study momentum,” or lose interest in further study. Graduate schools do not “look down on” applicants who have taken time off, and may even consider them better candidates at times.

I am not good at standardized tests. Do I have to take the GRE?
The GRE is a fact of life and most programs will require it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to a) decide that you are good at standardized tests, and b) to prepare to the best of your abilities. The GRE score will be but a part of your application package, and graduate schools will read and consider all your application materials.

I’ve been admitted to a good program. Can I defer for a year?
That depends on the program. Policies on deferment differ. Some schools will honor every request to defer, others may ask for your reasons to do so. Some may let you keep your financial aid offer, others will defer your admission and ask that you reapply for funding in the following year. If in your senior year you are certain that you want to take a year off after graduation, consider deferring your application by a year instead.

I’m not sure what I want to do, so I’m going to apply to graduate school. Is that a good idea?
Not really. Graduate school should not be a default solution for anyone, but a carefully considered choice. Graduate school is not a destination, but a journey toward a goal. If you cannot identify the goal you should probably do some more thinking.

I know I need three letters of recommendation, but my professors don’t really know me. What should I do?
They probably know you better than you think. If not, make yourself known to them as soon as possible! Discuss with them what you learned in their courses and tell them about your interests, aspirations, and plans for graduate study. Keep in touch with your professors after you graduate; they enjoy hearing from their old students!

I want to be a professor like my mentor here at Mount Holyoke. Should I get a Ph.D.?
Great! It is wonderful to have a role model! You will definitely need a Ph.D., but that is not all it takes to become a professor. Sit down with your mentor and discuss what is involved.

Will I make more money with a master’s degree than with a PhD?
Not necessarily! Depending on your career choice you could even earn less. You should investigate the career paths you have been thinking about and compare earning potential and life style issues.