Graduate School

gre boot camp 2016

GRE Boot Camp

In addition to our GRE workshop, we support students' prepartion for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) by hosting an intensive prep course each September before the beginning of fall quarter.

Are you interested in attending our 2017 program? Space will be limited. Share your contact information with us here and we will contact you when registration has opened.


Our quarterly workshop series addresses each stage of the application process. No sign-ups are required. Click on the thumbnails below to download our schedules.

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Meet with an advisor to discuss your graduate school plans. Whether you have just started exploring your options, or are currently applying to programs, we welcome your questions. Appointments are 30 minutes and are made online below or by visiting or calling 117 South Hall, 530-752-4475.

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Pre-Graduate Advisors
  • Griselda Jarquín, Ph.D. student - History
  • Adina Boyca, Ph.D. student - Biosystems Engineering


What is graduate school?

Graduate programs offer advanced study in a field or discipline, providing you with the skills to practice a specific profession (professional degree) or to engage in original research and teaching (research-based degree). A master's or doctoral degree can lead to positions in academia and public and private sectors.   

Is graduate school for me?

It is important to be able to define personal, academic, and career short-term and long-term goals as you consider graduate school. How does an advanced degree help you reach these goals? Talk to current graduate students and ask what graduate school is like—its rewards and challenges.  

Do I have to stay in my same discipline for graduate school?

Not necessarily, although some do. Graduate school emphasizes interdisciplinary inquiry, so if you are interested in branching out and pursuing a different discipline at the graduate level, you can frame your background as a strength. In order to better prepare yourself, however, taking some upper-division coursework in the new discipline is recommended, especially if there is not much overlap between the two fields.

What’s the difference between a master’s and a doctoral degree?

These degrees generally differ in the following ways: breadth vs. depth, time to degree, and funding. A master’s program focuses on breadth (advanced foundation), while a doctoral program centers on depth (expert knowledge in a certain area). A master’s program usually requires 1-2 years or study, while earning a doctorate can take 5-7+ years. Doctoral programs are usually funded, whereas master’s degree programs are usually not. 

How do I choose a school or program?

You must evaluate a program according to your own needs and goals (rather than rely simply on ranking). Factors to consider include: program design and curriculum, faculty (research interests), research/practicum opportunities, location, facilities, funding, student experience/support, and job placement. The site Peterson’s is a good place to start your research, but make sure to go directly to program websites.  

What is a gap year?

A gap year (or years) is a break between your undergraduate and graduate education, and can be advantageous if utilized wisely, as it can allow more time for professional and personal growth, exploration, and maturation. However, it is important to pursue opportunities and experiences relevant or transferable to your intended graduate program/field. 


What experiences should I pursue?

To stand out as an applicant and develop your skills it is important to pursue experiences outside of the classroom: research, internships, relevant work experience, volunteering, study abroad, activism, etc. What you decide to participate in helps to build your identity and demonstrate your sustained investment in your field and specific interests. 

Is research experience expected?

Research experience will always help you to be competitive for any program given the transferable skills you are able to develop: time and project management, analytical/critical thinking, academic writing, etc. If you are applying to research-based master’s (culminating in a thesis) or doctoral degree programs, research experience becomes even more valuable. Beyond becoming a competitive applicant, participate in research while an undergraduate to make sure you enjoy it! 

What kinds of relationships should I cultivate?

Both professional and research-based programs will expect 1-3 letters from an academic reference—get to know your professors through attending office hours, volunteering for projects, and participating in departmental activities. For research-based programs it is advantageous to have a letter writer that can speak directly to your research abilities and experience. For professional programs, a letter from someone who supervised you in an internship is advantageous. 

Which exam(s) should I prepare for?

The General Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is often required by graduate programs across disciplines. Consult the specific admissions requirements for schools to determine if you are required to take the GRE (General/Subject), or if it is recommended. Learn more about what the GRE entails and access study materials at the ETS website


What does my timeline look like?

In general, most application deadlines for graduate programs fall in December/January, but make sure to research and identify the exact deadlines for the programs to which you plan to apply, as there are exceptions. Below is a suggested timeline (you would need to adjust this if you pursue a gap year):

Fall Winter Spring Summer
  • Gain experience (research, internships, etc.)
  • Develop relationships (letter writers)
  • Identify programs
  • Prepare for and take the GRE
  • Develop statement of purpose essay
  • Finalize list of programs
  • Request letters of rec
  • Apply to programs and submit all materials
  • Apply for fellowships
  • Contact professors and students
  • Hear back from programs
  • Schedule campus visits
  • Accept offers
  • Relocate
  • Begin program
What does the application require?

Materials required in an application usually include the following: online application, statement of purpose (personal history and diversity statement), letters of recommendation, GRE score, resume/CV, and transcripts (unofficial when applying, official upon acceptance). Consult the specific requirements of the programs to which you plan to apply, as requirements differ. 

What is a statement of purpose?

This is an essay that you craft to explain why you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in your field. It is usually two pages long, double-spaced, but length requirements and prompts can differ, so consult your programs. You will share how you have prepared for graduate school, what experience and skills you bring to the program, and what your short-term and long-term goals are academically and professionally. You will also address why in particular you seek to attend the program to which you are applying. 

How do I get letters of recommendation?

Approach professors, mentors, supervisors, etc. early to start the conversation about your long-term academic and professional goals. The strongest letter is one that is personal and addresses your abilities in multiple capacities. When asking for the letter, do so in person and with a packet of support documents that can aid them in crafting the letter (a draft of your statement, resume, transcripts, list of schools to which you will be applying with deadlines, etc.). Aim to formally ask for the letter at least a month in advance, and check in with them as the deadline approaches. Remember to follow up with a handwritten thank you note. 

What should I think about when accepting an offer?

Before accepting any offers, you should be able to visit the campus and meet with the program—professors, current students, and staff. Take notes on your visits and conversations to drawn upon later as you compare and contrast offers. As you reflect about the fit and culture of each program, also compare and contrast the funding packages.

How will I finance my degree?

Most graduate programs are fulltime, meaning it is assumed students in the program are not working fulltime to finance the degree. Programs are financed through personal savings, loans, grants, and fellowships. A funded program typically provides students with a tuition/fee remission and a living stipend in exchange for working as a teaching assistant (TA) or a graduate student researcher (GSR). See UCLA’s GRAPES database to see what grants and fellowships might be available. 

What does success in graduate school look like?

Success in graduate school can take many forms: excelling in coursework, performing well in internships, collaborating with colleagues and professors, taking on leadership positions, chairing committees and symposia, securing grants or competitive fellowships, passing certification or comprehensive/qualifying exams, presenting at conferences and networking, publishing research articles, and making progress in developing a thesis or dissertation with the support of your committee of professors. Talk to current graduate students in your field to hear about their challenges and successes, and what advice they might have for you as a future graduate student.