Prepare for Graduate School


Utah State University Career Services provides students with admissions exams. Please contact Career Services Testing by calling 435-797-1004 or visiting the Testing Website.

Graduate & Professional School Admission Exams

GRE: General, all-purpose graduate school admission test. Offered various days a week.

MAT: Graduate admission test for use in selected programs. Offered various days a week.

GMAT: Computer based entrance exam for business schools. Offered weekly.

LSAT: Law school entrance exam. Offered four times a week.

MCAT: Entrance exam for medical school. Offered 12 times a year.

Graduate Application Timeline

Below is an example timeline (Fall semester entrance) to help you prepare for the application process. Starting the process early is key as it allows time to study for the entrance exam and perfect your personal statement.

May (a year prior to desired entrance year): Take practice tests—contact or research graduate programs to find out their desired test. Research potential schools, contact academic advisors/program directors to find out information about the program and their requirements. Study and take practice tests. Find out deadlines and record these on a calendar.  Be aware that institutions have different deadlines—you may need to record these in an excel spreadsheet to keep track of all of them.

June: Register for the entrance exam.

July: If you haven’t done so, contact program coordinators and get graduate school literature and requirements. If you have an undergraduate level course that is required and it is not part of your undergraduate program, register for this course in the coming semesters. Contact professors at your current university who are in the field of study that you are interested in.

August: Take the entrance exam. Begin writing your personal statement.

September: Finalize who you will ask for recommendation letters—ask them in writing for the recommendation. Continue working on your personal statement. Finalize a list of top graduate programs.

October: Send supportive information to your recommenders (resume, personal statement, transcripts, etc.). Arrange campus visits to prospective universities. Arrange for official transcripts. Reach out to professors or current students at the program(s) of choice.

November: Proofread your personal statement. Have your personal statement critiqued by various professionals—professors, career coach/specialist. Send “thank you” notes to all your recommenders.

December: Submit all applications.

January: Apply for Financial Aid (FAFSA). Contact the program coordinator about assistantships and fellowships.

April-May: Receive acceptance letter(s). Decide on the most appropriate school for you. Send another “thank you” note to your recommenders letting them know of your acceptance to the program. Notify your career advisor of your acceptance and decision.

August-September: Start Graduate School!

Before you begin writing your essay, review the graduate school requirements. Some graduate schools require a certain format, structure and word count; others simply request a personal statement. What kind of statement should you plan to write—effective and persuasive that conveys the points mentioned below.  Write it in first person and in active voice. 

How long should you make your statement? If the graduate school does not have requirements on the statement’s length, aim for a shorter essay that covers the points mentioned below, one to two pages.

A personal statement is your chance to help an admissions committee get to know you: what your passions and goals are, what you bring to the program, and what you hope to get out of the experience. You need to sell the admissions committee on what makes you a worthwhile applicant. The personal statement is an opportunity to highlight significant facts about you that don’t appear elsewhere in your application.

While a personal statement may address your academic, volunteer and professional experience, you have leeway to be somewhat personal. It’s often appropriate to include information on significant life experiences or challenges that aren’t directly relevant to your field of interest. Let the graduate committee see what makes you unique and worth considering for admission.

A well-written personal statement communicates a clear, specific message about what makes you a strong applicant who will likely be successful in pursuit of the graduate degree. Where applicable, you can also address setbacks or gaps in your application as part of your statement. However, you will want to demonstrate positive qualities like resilience and diligence to the admissions committee in addressing such issues.

It is important to identify specific details about the program that appeal to you and ways you hope to take advantage of those opportunities to reach your long-term goals. Show that you are informed about and genuinely interested in the program by mentioning specific professors, research projects or initiative involvement. Don’t be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to address each program specifically. Remember the admissions officers are looking for the BEST match for their program.

Once you have drafted your personal statement, carefully proofread it and refine it. No punctuation or grammatical errors are allowed. Have it reviewed by a few trusted individuals—career specialist, professor, or graduate student. Last stop before submission should be the USU Writing Center. Writing a personal statement is a process; be prepared to write multiple drafts to produce the final, polished, best-representation of yourself.


Statement Structure

First Paragraph:      Why this field of study?

                                Why are you a good candidate for this graduate program?

                                Why are you interested in this specific graduate school/program?*

Second Paragraph: What are your best qualifications for being accepted in this program?


                                Work Experience?

                                Volunteer Involvement?



Third Paragraph:     Tie your long-term goals to your admission to this graduate program. Be clear about your intent.


*Omit if personal statements are being submitted through a Centralized Application Service where all universities have access to the same document.

Additional Resources:

How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement - EssayEdge

Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School -

How to Write Your Personal Statement for Graduate School -