Graduate & Professional School
The Application Year
- Research graduate programs based your criteria (area of interest, faculty and mentors, facilities and resources, research or experiential opportunities, financial aid and funding, geographic location, size of program, etc.)
- Review graduate schools’ brochures and application materials (from the previous year)
- Speak with professors, alumni, mentors and other professionals about your interests
- Study and plan when you will take the appropriate admission test
- Review the recommendation process and carefully select your recommendation writers
- Study and take the appropriate admission test
- Research, contact and visit graduate schools
- Contact letter writers for updates
- Draft personal statements/statements of purpose and have them reviewed and critiqued by a Lazarus Center adviser
- Request current brochures, application and financial aid materials
- Study and take the appropriate admission test
- Contact letter writers to insure completion and submission
- Create list of schools to which you will apply
- Complete and submit application and financial aid materials at least 1-month before deadline
- Confirm completed application files
- If waitlisted, send additional supporting materials
- Evaluate acceptances and pay deposit
Deciding to Attend
Graduate school is a mental, physical, financial and emotional commitment. Consider carefully your reasons for wanting to continue your education (academic or employment). Consult with faculty and evaluate your abilities, the strength of your candidacy and the outcomes of an advanced degree.
- Go to graduate school with an intended purpose, not because you don’t know what else to do.
- Go to graduate school for your desire to learn more, not to please someone else.
Deciding to attend graduate school may mean you will attend the fall after graduation or at some point in your future:
- Will your application profit from a year or two of experience?
- Is your momentum strong to keep you focused on your graduate school academics?
- Will a part-time graduate program allow you to both work and attend graduate school?
Selecting a Graduate School
Gather information about graduate programs through a variety of resources:
- Faculty: Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of programs and where former Smithies have attended.
- Alumni: What advice can they offer you about their graduate school experience? Contact graduate school admission offices for lists of current students or recent graduates who previously attended Smith.
- Scholars and professionals: Who has authored papers and books of interest? Which programs did they pursue?
- Websites: Peterson’s guide to graduate schools, GraduateGuide.com, GradSchools.com
Narrow the field of graduate schools to a reasonable number, taking into account the following considerations:
- your personal criteria
- the time involved to complete well-thought out, competitive applications
- your ability to pay admission fees (or seek fee waivers, if available)
Applying to Graduate School
Craft your application specifically for each program to which you apply. Admissions officers want to understand who you are, what you bring to the program, what is your academic preparation and interest, and how their graduate program meets your needs.
- Graduate programs may require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)—General and perhaps the Subject tests. Some programs may require the Miller Analogies Test (MAT).
- Discounts on graduate & professional school test preparation courses offered by The Princeton Review are available to Smith students and alums. Go to Handshake for more details.
- Prepare thoroughly for these tests. Plan to take the test once. Multiple test scores may not be an advantage.
- Applicants may benefit from a test prep, such as Kaplan, Princeton Review, Testwell, TestMasters or others.
- Consider carefully the cost, time commitment and your need for a test prep organization.
Select professors who will best support your application to a graduate program. Read the graduate program’s application guidelines as to how many letters are required and how they are to be submitted. Read the Lazarus Center Guide to recommendations and if appropriate, use Interfolio.
Most graduate programs require transcripts from any college where you have taken a class. How to request your Smith transcript.
Read the Personal Statement prompt and take the time to write your statement accordingly. Attend the Writing a Personal Statement Workshop, or schedule an appointment with an adviser. Learn more about writing your personal statement.
Check the financial aid guidelines for each program to which you are applying. For additional information, consult AccessGroup, FastWeb, FinAid or the U.S. Department of Education.
Some programs (PhD level), will ask you to come for an interview (which may include several sessions) with faculty members in your field and with current students. This is an opportunity for the department to get to know you and to ask questions and determine whether the department is a good fit for you. Prepare for the interviews with a mock interview with the Lazarus Center staff.
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If you want to take an LSAT prep course but the cost would be a financial hardship, the Lazarus Center can reimburse up to $700 toward the cost of an LSAT prep course.
Smith College Guide to Law School
Law School Application Timeline & Checklist
Legal Career Information
- American Bar Association
- Equal Justice Works—Information on law careers in public service
- FindLaw—Directory of lawyers and legal professionals
- Hieros Gamos—A comprehensive law and government portal
- Internet Legal Research Group—Information concerning law and the legal profession
- Law.com—News, legal information and e-law services
- Martindale.com—Database of law firms and lawyers
- National Association for Law Placement—Legal career planning and recruitment
- National Association of Women Lawyers
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
Selecting Law Schools
- Law School Admission Council
- ABA's Commission on Women in the Profession
- LSAC's Information for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Applicants
- LSAC's Racial/Ethnic Minority Applicants
- National Women Law Students’ Association
Financial Aid and Scholarship Sources
- Immigrants Rising Pre-Law Fund
- The Access Group
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Books and References in the Lazarus Center
- The Best Law Schools, Princeton Review
- The Ultimate Guide to Law School Admission by Carol L. Wright
- Get into Law School, Kaplan
- Law School Essays, Princeton Review
Applying to Health Professions Programs
We can help you explore health professions through advising, internships, career opportunities, personal statement review and mock interviews.
You may also research Smith alumnae who work in various professions and conduct informational interviews to learn more about their experiences.
For information regarding curricular programming and health professions graduate application advising, contact Elly Mons, director of the Health Professions Advising Program, firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-585-2582.
GMAT.org—Tools to help you prepare for the GMAT, including free test prep software, information about scores, test scheduling and more.
MBA.com—Information on everything from deciding if an MBA is for you to paying off business school loans.
The Princeton Review MBA Programs by Specialization—This site offers a guide to business schools as well as advice on graduate and business school preparation.
Explore Graduate & Professional School
Deciding To Apply
The decision to attend a graduate or professional school and when to attend are questions with answers that are unique for each individual. There is no timeline of when or if one is supposed to attend a post-Smith education. For many, the reason to attend a graduate program is to satisfy a personal journey:
- it is a subject that one purely wants to study in depth as a scholar, or
- it is needed for employment or advancement in a particular career field
When your reason to attend a graduate program has motivated you, begin to evaluate your credentials and explore the various graduate programs. Consult with others who can assist you in your endeavor:
- Speak with faculty who can advise you on programs in your field of interest.
- Meet with a Lazarus Center adviser to help coordinate the logistics of your application.
- Network with Smith alumnae and other professionals in the field who can share their personal experiences.
- Contact admission representatives of your selected graduate programs about their programs.
Your decision to attend graduate school should be carefully planned and strategically crafted. Schedule an appointment with a Lazarus Center Adviser at 413-585-2582 or schedule via Handshake.
Funding Graduate & Professional School
- Smith College Fellowships Information—Fellowships provide funds for study, research, interning, self-designed projects or participation in programs.
- American Association of University Women (AAUW) Educational Funding & Awards - One of the world’s largest sources of funding for graduate women, AAUW provides funding for fellowships and grants to outstanding women and nonprofit organizations.
- Fellowship Finder Database—Features over 1,100 curated listings of grants and fellowships for graduate students.
- FastWeb.com—Internet's leading scholarship search service
- FinAid.org—Under certain circumstances, the federal government will cancel all or part of an educational loan. Visit this link to find out if you qualify for loan forgiveness.
- Grant Forward is a searchable grant and funding database for undergraduates and graduate students. Access via the Smith College Libraries Databases.
- Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students —This $10,000 scholarship helps outstanding minority students and others from historically underserved communities attend graduate school.
- Funding Sources for International Students - Resources compiled by Harvard University, arranged by home region.
Most graduate programs will ask you for a personal statement, which is an informal letter to the admissions committee. Your personal statement is also a sample of your writing, attention to detail, and logic.
Questions are usually variations on:
- Why our school/program?
- What has prepared you for it?
- Why now in your life?
Graduate schools have several reasons for giving you a chance to “speak” to them through a personal statement. They already have plenty of concrete information about you. What they don't know is why you're applying for this particular program, where it fits in your ideas about your future, what you bring to the department as a person and scholar, and what you hope to take away when you graduate.
Need more help? Attend a Personal Statement workshop, make an appointment with a Lazarus Center Adviser 413-585-2582 or schedule an appointment in Handshake.
Crafting Your Personal Statement
- Outline: Start by listing the pieces of information you want to convey, then move the items around until they flow in a logical, often chronological, way. Talk it through with friends or a Lazarus Center adviser, and have them write down the main themes they hear.
- Write: Elaborate on each item briefly, using the first person active voice (I) as much as possible, as well as a simple, direct style.
- This is not an academic essay. Avoid long or formal words and phrases. Admission committees read hundreds of essays each year; they're delighted when an applicant addresses them as human beings and gives them a clear picture of her readiness for—and awareness of—their field, program and expectations.
- You may choose to mention courses you're looking forward to taking, and professors with whom you'd like to study, if that will help your readers understand your interests.
Most graduate and professional schools require three letters of recommendation as part of your application. These letters are typically written by faculty who have taught, advised or supervised you. For some programs, you may also wish to ask professional references who have supervised you at a job or internship. Your recommenders should be able to write convincingly and supportively of you in their letters. They should know you and your work well and be able to write specifically about your strengths.
Who to Ask
Deciding who to ask can be difficult. Here are some factors to consider as you’re making your decision:
How well the person knows you and your work
In what capacity the person knows you (professor, adviser, supervisor, etc.)
How your letter writers will complement each other
Your recommender’s field and appointment
Have backups in mind in case your first choices are unavailable
It’s not always obvious who to ask. Feel free to make an appointment with our Assistant Director of Graduate and Professional School Advising to discuss your options.
How to ask
Schedule an appointment with potential recommenders to make your request. Meet in person if possible. If not, try via Zoom or an email.
Professors are busy people. Contact recommenders early in the semester and give them as much notice as possible. Make sure to ask at least six to eight weeks prior to any deadlines.
Let your recommender know why you are asking them specifically. You may wish to remind them of research you did for their class, what you learned, and specific feedback they had for you. You may also want to discuss your coursework, interests, experiences and motivation for applying to graduate school.
Ask your recommender what materials they need from you. Most would like a copy of your resume or CV, personal statement, and a list of schools you are applying to and their deadlines.
Give faculty an out when you make your request. If someone is unable to write you a strong letter, you are likely better off asking another potential recommender.
What to do after you ask
Follow up with all requested information: resume, personal statement, list of schools and deadlines, transcript, etc.
Follow up politely with your recommenders to ensure timely completion of letters prior to the deadlines. Sometimes requests get forgotten and it is your responsibility to follow up.
Thank faculty after they’ve submitted your letter and remember to let them know the outcome of your application!
Should you waive your right to view your letters of recommendation?
Due to FERPA, you are entitled to access your academic record, including letters of recommendation. This means you must actively waive your right to read your letters in order for them to be considered confidential. We advise you to waive this right, as most schools do not give equal weight and consideration to a letter of recommendation if the applicant has retained their right to read it.
“How to Ask for a Recommendation,” published by Leonard Cassuto in The Chronicle of Higher Education has excellent advice on how to give faculty guidance and support in making your letter as strong as possible.