Graduate School Coaching

Get prepared for graduate school by researching programs available, understanding the applications process and preparing for entrance exams. Review the follow list as you kick off your graduate school prep!

Graduate school planning

Step one: Research graduate programs

  • Consider Master's or PhD programs and figure out which route is best for you.
  • Talk to your current research mentor or faculty members in programs you are interested in learning more about.
  • Identify your research interests and read scientific publications on those topics. Pay close attention to the faculty members and the institutions that are publishing in those areas and research their graduate programs.
  • Review graduate school admission pages and department/college pages to understand the process and faculty research projects.
  • Most PhD programs pay a stipend for students in their program. For additional funding resources, contact the program directly.
  • Research schools and programs on or or at the U of M at
  • Speak to a career team member to discuss your interests

Step two: Prepare for entrance exams

  • Most graduate programs require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) entrance exam.
  • You can find details about the exam, registration, testing locations and sample questions at
  • There are courses, books and websites to help students prepare for the GRE. Two helpful resources are the SMART Learning Commons and Test Prep Courses through the College of Continuing Education.
  • Make sure you research each program to determine the specific application material requirements.

Step three: Prepare your application materials

Determine the application materials you need as they may vary by program. A personal statement, a research statement and letters of recommendation are all part of the graduate school application.

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    Personal statements

    A personal statement highlights your strengths and experiences that make you a good fit for the program you are applying to. Questions to address include:

    • Why are you the best candidate for this school?
    • What will you accomplish in the future with this degree?
    • Which faculty members at the institution are you interested in working with and why?

    Research statement

    Your research statement is where you will explain your undergraduate research project and demonstrate and understanding of the content you have engaged with as an undergraduate.

    • Have multiple people read over your research statement to provide feedback. You will want readers who understand your field of research and readers who are unfamiliar with your work. Multiple readers provides multiple perspectives on your statement.

    Letters of recommendation

    • You should have at least one letter of recommendation from your faculty mentor that oversees the research lab you are part of as an undergraduate. This letter needs to come directly from the faculty member and not the graduate student or post-doc that you may work with day to day in the lab.
    • Give your letter writers a 4-6 week notice and specific deadlines for each program that you will be applying to.
    • Contact the programs and confirm that your letters were received.
    • Follow-up with your letter writers with a thank you note. Once you know which program you will be attending, that’s great news to share with your letter writers. They will always appreciate hearing the outcome of your applications and that you will be attending a program that you are excited about. 

    Step four: Meet with a CBS Career Team Member

    Meet with a CBS career support staff member to start planning for a graduate program. Make an appointment with the CBS career staff by calling 612-624-9717 or schedule an appointment online.

    • Review personal statements with a member from our team.
    • Set up a mock interview to receive feedback and get practice interviewing.

    Other resources: