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Graduate school application process begins

Nicole Michels | Thursday, September 15, 2011

It’s that time of year again — application time. As the fall semester gets into full swing, Notre Dame seniors begin the process of applying to graduate schools across the country.

The University provides a wide variety of resources for students to gain entry into their preferred graduate program of study, Anita Rees, associate director of the Notre Dame Career Center, said.

“The process hinges on what the person believes is best for them and for their long-term ambitions,” Rees said. “It is extremely important that students feel directed in their career paths. First they should decide where they want to go, and then think about what’s required to get there.”

For many seniors, this decision was an easy one.

Jeff O’Brien, a senior mechanical engineering major, worked for GE’s Department of Research and Development last summer. Working for GE, O’Brien said he noticed everyone around him had a doctorate in the field.

“I realized that I need to pursue a Ph.D. to do what I want to do,” O’Brien said.

For students pursuing science or engineering degrees, a graduate degree is often the next step after completing undergraduate studies at Notre Dame, according to Rees.

“Talk to your professors,” Rees said. “The faculty members in a student’s chosen field of study are the people best positioned to help that student determine which graduate schools are best suited for his individual interests, and how he can make himself the most attractive candidate for those schools.”

Daniel Graff, director of undergraduate studies in history, said the mentoring process for graduate school candidates is a process that starts with individual, informal conversations.

“The history department focuses on individual mentoring to help students to discern if particular programs are right for what they are each interested in, and if the are passionate enough about these interests to devote further years of study to the subjects,” he said.

Graff said his department focuses on mentoring students who have either shown pronounced interest in further academic study or have specifically expressed aspirations to postgraduate study.

The Mendoza College of Business takes a similar approach, by focusing on connecting with the individual student and supporting his or her pursuit of postgraduate ambitions, Assistant Dean Samuel Gaglio said.

“We start this reflection early. After the initial sophomore orientation, we regularly meet with students to help them plan and have some direction to their studies at school,” he said. “If we have one objective in this College, it’s to ensure that a student never says ‘I wish I had known about that.'”

Senior Ashley Ulrich said the College of Business focuses on being in constant communication with its students. Ulrich, an accounting major, will attend Notre Dame next year to attain her masters in accounting.

“Once you declare your major, you’re kept up to date about different presentations via email,” Ulrich said.

For many students, the application process for graduate studies programs bears a strong resemblance to the process of applying to college, Ulrich said.

“The process reminded me of applying to college as a high school senior. I was used to doing it before,” she said. “It was stressful, but if you start early the process is manageable.”