Applying to Graduate School
Making the decision to go to graduate school is one that takes time and careful planning. It is also one that can be tremendously rewarding and challenging. No matter where you are in the process, use this site to find information, advice, tips, and resources.
What are some good reasons to go to graduate school? (notes from the University of Pennsylvania’s Career Services)
- You are passionate about scholarly work and academic study.
- You are certain about your career path and, after researching this field extensively, you know that an advanced degree will either be a requirement or significantly help your cause.
- You enjoy pursuing your own research topics in a specific field independently and can envision yourself conducting such research for several years to come.
Identifying and Selecting Programs
Similar to the undergraduate admissions process, universities offering graduate-level engineering courses have unique deadlines, programs, and admissions requirements. It can be overwhelming to keep yourself organized, so here are some tips to get started:
- Use our Grad School Organization Worksheet to keep those deadlines in one place.
- Check out America's Best Grad Schools for insights.
- Talk with members of Thayer faculty, your academic advisor, or anyone else conducting research in your area(s) of interest.
- Make an appointment with us via Handshake; we want to get to know you.
There are many components to a graduate school application: forms, academic transcripts, personal statements, test scores, and letters of recommendation. Create a timeline to help you stay on track.
Many graduate programs require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The General GRE is offered in computer-based testing format. The closest test location to Dartmouth is in Concord, NH.
Check out the following test prep books from our library:
- Kaplan GRE & GMAT Math Workbook
- Kaplan GRE Exam
- Princeton Review Cracking the GRE
- You don’t have to go straight to graduate school: it’s often advantageous to take some time to work in between your degrees, and many programs prefer to admit those who have practical experience in the “real world” first.
- If you are seriously considering pursuing your PhD, it’s a good idea to select a master's program that requires a thesis.
- Keep a list of deadlines and due dates. Work backwards.
- If you send applications by registered mail, make sure you have a record that everything was sent on time.
- Additional degrees do not necessarily increase the number of jobs available to you. In fact, having an advanced degree can sometimes decrease this number because you will be considered overqualified.
More detailed information:
Graduate School Timeline
On Applying to Non-Thayer School Graduate Programs
- Most engineering graduate programs expect a bachelor's degree (B.S. or B.E.) in engineering from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET).
- Many engineering graduate programs will also accept students with bachelor's degrees in a relevant scientific discipline. Such students may have to make up some undergraduate engineering courses before commencing graduate work.
The Year Before Applying
- Research areas of interests, schools, and programs.
- Get to know at least two professors whom you could ask for recommendation letters.
- Get advice and suggestions about graduate school programs from your faculty advisor, from Thayer/Dartmouth alumni, and anyone else conducting research in your area(s) of interest.
- Register and prepare for the GRE.
- Here is a helpful Checklist.
6 Months Before Applying
- Take the GRE.
- Visit schools if time permits.
- Review your applications and begin collecting the materials necessary to complete them. Start writing your personal statement.
- Check on deadlines for applications and on rolling admission policies.
3-4 Months Before Applying
- Obtain letters of recommendation from professors and employers.
- Take the GRE, if you haven’t already. Or, retake it if necessary.
- Finish your personal statement and request others you trust to review it.
- Send in completed applications.
- Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Pay attention to the federal, state, and individual graduate school deadlines.
- Call the admissions offices of your schools of choice and make sure that your applications are complete.
- Visit the schools to which you have been accepted, if you have not done so already.
- Send a deposit to your school of choice.
- Notify other schools of your decision.
- Send thank you notes to the professors or employers who wrote your recommendation letters.
*See the month by month guidelines.
Grad School Choices Outside of Thayer
Where do our graduates go?
See their choices from 2011-2021.
This information is gathered through an annual survey of the graduating class, and represents only those schools for which students accepted and matriculated
If you would like to reach out to our graduates pursuing degrees outside of Thayer, please make an appointment.
Grad School FAQ's
Is an advanced degree right for me?
Perhaps you are considering earning a Master's, PhD or business degree - maybe you are interested in our Master of Engineering Management program. Whatever your reason for considering an advanced degree, take the time to determine your motivations before applying. Schedule an appointment with us via Handshake; we can take you through your options step by step.
Chat with your peers. Visit The Grad Cafe to get your questions answered.
Which degree is best for me?
This depends on your career goals, so research what’s available first. Pay close attention to requirements, qualifications, costs, and benefits of each degree that you are interested in. Talk to your professors, Dartmouth/Thayer alumni, contacts in your field(s) of interest, and your academic advisor.
- Doctoral Programs: earning your doctorate is the next step for securing a career in research. If you are interested in academia, it’s nearly impossible to get tenured without a PhD. While the idea of having “Doctor” in your signature may be exhilarating, the process of earning the title will require a serious academic commitment. Your financial compensation will be limited (in the range of $27 - $40K/year with some benefits) and you will be working extremely hard for around 4 - 6 years.
- Master's Programs: the majority of these programs are one to two years, with a research thesis/comprehensive exam/field work to top it off. Apply if you are interested in becoming an expert in your chosen field. An MS will typically provide you with sufficient technical and/or quantitative skills to pursue a higher-paying job in industry after graduation. Though it’s possible to enroll directly into a doctorate program with an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree can help you complete your doctorate within three years.
Who should I ask for a Letter of Recommendation? When should I ask for one?
Your recommenders should know you; they should think highly of you and your work, and they should be able to (and want to) write a letter on your behalf. In order for this to happen, give them advance notice (e.g., 4-6 weeks) and schedule a time for the two of you to talk candidly about your career goals. Pick from professors, advisors, and mentors rather than family friends. Typically, 2-4 recommendations are required, but just follow the instructions on your applications.
Where should I apply?
After you have selected the degree that is right for you, start thinking about specific programs. This is the part that can get overwhelming, so make an appointment with us. To get you off on the right foot, here is a Comparing Grad Schools Exercise to help you determine which one is best for you. Stop by our office to check out applicable books, and/or peruse the following resources online:
- American Universities: list of university granting advanced degrees
- Peterson's Planner: comprehensive tool to find the graduate school that’s right for you
- GradSchools.com: “The number one graduate resource on the planet”
Is my application strong enough?
Learn what the requirements are for the programs you are interested in as soon as you can. This way you can fulfill them—academic, language, technical—in advance of applying. PhD programs may ask to see a research paper. Your work, internships, and research experience will make your application more competitive too. You can also read our guide on writing your personal statement.
Should I mention gaps/discrepancies in my academic record?
Yes. Add an addendum to your personal statement, or, provide details in the portion of the application asking if there is anything else you would like to share.
How should I finance my education?
A lot of your questions about financial aid will be answered through your research of the program and through a careful reading of each school’s materials. For detailed information regarding financial aid at Dartmouth, visit the Financial Aid and Loans page. (The questions below are from University of Pennsylvania's Career Services)
- Is one automatically considered for funding when one applies for admission? Does the program accept students who are not funded? How do these students pay for their educations?
- Are most students expected to get need-based financial aid, work part-time, or take out loans?
- Do most students get fellowships? Are they non-service fellowships, teaching fellowships, or a combination? What kind of stipends might one expect? Is tuition covered? Are there fees (e.g., health insurance, computer fees) that aren't covered?
- Are students generally funded for the entire length of the program or just a part? Do students have to compete for funding at any point in the program and, if so, what are the criteria for that competition? What are some of the options for funding when fellowships run out?
- Are there national fellowships to which one might apply? What are the procedures for such fellowships (i.e., direct application, departmental/university nomination, interviews)?
When should I start applying?
Some programs require that you start preparing your application a year to a year and a half in advance. Visit the schools' websites for information on specific deadlines (it is usually beneficial to submit your materials well in advance of stated deadlines). Plan early to collect letters of recommendation and take any necessary standardized tests.
WITH PERMISSION TO POST FROM OUR FRIENDS PRINCETON SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING AND APPLIED SCIECE AND THE PATHWAYS TO GRADUATE SCHOOL
Application process https://vimeo.com/446246615
GRE Math https://vimeo.com/459190396
Letters of Recommendation https://vimeo.com/454773441
Statement of Purpose https://vimeo.com/461751559