Graduate school is an opportunity to pursue an area of academic interest or gain professional skills. Each year, a small number of Bowdoin students continue directly to graduate school. The majority take 2-5 years before pursuing graduate education in order to clarify their professional and personal goals.
Before deciding on a graduate program, do your research. Talk with professors who are knowledgeable about the field that interests you and the strengths of different programs. Use the Bowdoin Career Advisory Network (BCAN) to contact alumni who attended programs that you are considering.
Bowdoin’s academic departments support and advise students seeking advanced degrees related to their undergraduate program of study — so if you’re considering a Ph.D. in History, your best starting place will be your history professors. Because graduate programs vary so much, getting expertise from academics familiar with the process is very valuable.
Rosemary Effiom is Bowdoin’s Graduate Study Advisor, and she can help you get started on the process. Her office is 102 Boody-Johnson, and you can make an appointment by calling (207) 725-3461.
Those interested in the health field should contact Bowdoin’s Health Professions Advisor, Seth Ramus, who works with students considering medical and health related careers (including medical school, dental school, veterinary medicine, occupational therapy, nursing/midwifery, public health, and many other fields).
Career Planning is available as a resource for students interested in business or law programs. For MBA programs, make an appointment with Timothy Diehl (see Preparing for an MBA under the In Depth tab); for law school, make an appointment with pre-law advisor Sherry Mason (Sherry has in-depth information on law school on her career sector pages).
Graduate degrees are usually academic or professional, although there are some both, such as PhD in Social Work. Academic degrees (MA, MS, PhD) involve the intensive study in an academic field. Professional degrees (MBA, JD, MD, MEd, MSW, MPH etc.) stress practical application of knowledge and skills. For some professions, there is one distinct path; while for others there are different graduate degrees that can qualify you for a professional career.
When considering programs, learn about the research areas of faculty and employment of recent graduates. How established is the program and how strong is the alumni network? Are there alternative paths to get to the same goal/licensure/salary range that should be considered?
While at Bowdoin, attend the Graduate and Professional School Fair held every October. Programs represented range from Social Work, Public Health, Law, Journalism, Arts, Education, Health / Medicine, Environment and Sustainability, and Business.
With few exceptions, applications require a personal statement, letters of recommendation, an official transcript and test scores. Some programs will also require interviews. The strongest letters of recommendation are from professors who have had you in more than one class and know your work.
Application timelines vary. Law school and medical school have their own specific and distinct application process. For law school, make an appointment with Sherry Mason, the Pre-Law Advisor in Career Planning. If you wish to go to medical school or other health science graduate school, contact Seth Ramus, Health Professions Advising. Rosemary Effiom, Graduate School Advising, Office of Special Academic Programs is the point person on campus for all other graduate programs.
Your personal statement is the most important part of your application. You need to state your motivation for applying (why this program? whose research interests you?), the experiences you bring and the questions you want to explore. You will need to write multiple drafts so start early. Ask you professors for feedback.
Although targeted for a science graduate program, this guide to writing strong personal statements is relevant to all fields.
To obtain an official transcript (both current students and alumni), go to studentclearinghouse.org and select Bowdoin College.
GRE – Graduate Record Exam. Computer administered, required for most academic programs. There is a general GRE, and subject specific GRE tests. ets.org/gre
GMAT – Graduate Management Admissions Test. Required for most business schools. gmac.org
LSAT – Law School Admission Test. Administered at Bowdoin four times per year. lsac.org
MCAT – Medical College Admission Test. aamc.org/students/mcat
If you are applying to medical schools, you need to start the process 20 months before you wish to enroll. Meet with Seth Ramus to talk about the process and about the importance of getting a committee letter.
12-15 months before you intend to enroll, research schools and programs. Take tests. Request letters of recommendation. Start on your Personal Statement. General advice on researching and applying to graduate school, prepared by the Chemistry Department, is relevant to all disciplines can be found here.
9-12 months before you intend to enroll, revise and polish personal statement. Ask a professor to read over your statement and provide feedback. Revise again! Confirm that letters of recommendation have been completed. Submit applications. Except for medical school, applications are usually due in the fall and early winter prior to the year you wish to enroll. Application deadlines may be earlier if you are applying for financial aid.
Acceptance into graduate school is on a rolling basis – usually from mid-February and into the summer. Once you have heard from your programs, let you recommenders know and thank them. Talk with your professors about your options. Additional advice and choosing a program and identifying a research advisor can be found here.
Most PhD programs offer stipends ($20,000 – $35,000 per year) and do not charge tuition. You will be expected to be a Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant as part of your acceptance into the program.
Funding for Masters level programs is variable – some may offer RA or TA positions and tuition reductions while others will require you to pay full cost.
Fellowships for graduate school provide financial support and often include opportunities to attend conferences. Information about these programs are on the Bowdoin Office of Student Research and Fellowship website.
Need-based loans are given by the government through the Stafford or Perkins Loan programs. Graduate school applications will have more information about them.
Check with the Student Aid Office for information on graduate scholarships available through Bowdoin.
More information on financial aid:
Law SchoolIf you are interested in law school and careers in law, please visit the Government, Law & Policy Career Path page.
Preparing for an MBAMany Bowdoin graduates will consider pursuing an MBA (Master’s of Business Administration) several years after graduation. Bowdoin students with strong early career success are competitive candidates for top tier programs across the country and around the world.
General Advice for those considering MBAs
Strong Academic Performance – A top tier MBA program is looking for a strong GPA from a competitive college or university. A slightly lower GPA does not eliminate the MBA option, however, as many programs are eager to recruit candidates from a strong institution like Bowdoin.
Early Career Success – If you are considering an MBA down the road, one of the key admission factors is early career success. A track record of achievement (promotion, increased responsibility, strong recommendations) is essential to a strong application. For example, it’s better to spend three years at one firm with demonstrated results than to change positions 2 to 3 times during your early career.
Vision for Post-MBA Career – MBA programs are looking for candidates that express a clear vision of where they are headed in their careers. The more specific and well-conceived your plan, the greater the likelihood that you will stand out in the pool. This vision for your post-MBA life is communicated in both your personal statement essay and during in-person interviews with members of the school admission staff and alumni.
Score on the GMAT or GRE – The Graduate Management Admissions Test and The Graduate Record Exam are the two standardized tests accepted by most business schools. A strong score can differentiate you from other applicants. To learn more about how to prepare for the exam, or to register to take it, visit www.mba.com or www.ets.org/gre.
Resources for Your MBA Search
The Bowdoin Career Planning Library offers a number of books that speak to both MBA programs and preparing for the GMAT. All books can be checked out by visiting the Career Planning Library on the first floor of Moulton Union. Below is a sampling of the books available.
In addition, Bloomberg Businessweek offers useful advice on preparing for the MBA admission process, the GMAT and evaluating test prep courses including Kaplan and Princeton Review.
To sign up for a testing date in your area and for more information about the GMAT test and MBA’s in general, please visit mba.com, the official site of the GMAT. Generally you will want to take the GMAT in the spring or summer of the year you plan to apply for admission. By doing so, you create flexibility to retake the exam if you do not achieve the score you anticipated during your first sitting.
Kaplan GMAT Premier Coursebook – A comprehensive review for each section of the GMAT and proven test-taking strategies and complete explanations. (2013)
The Official GMAT Review Guide – The only study guide with more than 800 past GMAT questions – and their answers – by the creators of the test. (2015)
MBA School Reviews & Advice
The Princeton Review – Best 300 Business Schools – More than 19,000 MBA students at top programs speak out about academics, student life, and career opportunities at their schools. Learn everything you need to know about the MBA landscape – hear it directly from Stanford, Wharton, Tuck, Michigan, UCLA and NYU admissions pros. (2014)
The Complete Start-to-Finish MBA Admissions Guide – The MBA admissions process is fiercely competitive, and success is only gained by differentiating yourself from a sea of applicants. Filled with exercises and examples, The Complete Start-to-Finish MBA Admissions Guide takes you step by step through the entire admissions process, teaching you how to emphasize those aspects that set you apart so that you can secure that coveted letter of acceptance. (2013)
The Business School Buzz Book – In this unique guide, view excerpts from surveys of students and alumni at almost 170 MBA programs to bring you the inside scoop on the specific programs. The survey comments cover the following areas – admissions, academics, employment prospects, quality of life, and social life. A number of prominent schools also have school specific review guides. Visit the Vault website to download your copy.
The MBA Career Bible – An MBA isn’t just for finance and consulting. The Vault MBA Career Bible, gives you the inside scoop on a variety of hot industries—from fashion to nonprofit and government. Learn how your education and background fit in, with industry overviews, career path information, days in the life and interviews with industry leaders and future leaders. That said, all the traditional MBA-heavy finance services are still there, with details about how the recession has affected each industry. Visit the Vault website to download your copy.
FindTheBest.com – FindTheBest offers rankings and comprehensive overviews of business schools from around the country. They include acceptance rate, median GMAT scores of admitted students, and average post-graduation salary.
Graduate Schools in EducationThe best source of information about getting a graduate degree in education is Bowdoin’s Education Department. Graduate schools of education generally offer several programs and degrees. The master’s degree in education is recognized by several titles depending on the institution, but each carries the same weight: for example, Harvard Graduate School of Education offers an M.Ed. (Master’s of Education), University of Pennsylvania offers an M.S.Ed. (Master of Science in Education), Stanford University School of Education offers an M.A. in Education (Master of Arts in Education), and Brown University offers an M.A.T. (Master of Arts in Teaching).
Universities offer a number of master’s programs, ranging from nine months to two years in length. As well as programs leading to a master’s with teaching certification, graduate school of education offer such programs as counseling and psychological services; education policy; education leadership; higher education; early childhood education; language and literacy; teaching, learning, and curriculum; education, culture, and society; arts in education; and international education policy. Consult specific schools of education for program offerings and admissions requirements and speak with Education Department faculty members at Bowdoin for additional guidance.
Like the master’s degree, the doctorate in education degree is recognized by several titles depending on the institution, but each carries the same weight: the Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) and the Ph.D. in Education (Doctor of Philosophy in Education) are the most common. The doctorate in education degree prepares students to assume such roles as university faculty members and senior-level educational leaders, policy makers, and researchers.
To learn more about careers about in education, visit the Education page of our Career Paths section.
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