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As a graduate student, you will face challenges that differ from those you experienced as an undergraduate. You might need to write a CV, want to know about an academic interview, or need specialized job search assistance. You may possibly find that you are no longer interested in the career path that you are currently pursuing. We can help! Also check out 10 Tips to Surviving Grad School.

Career Consultants

Consultants are available to help you with any career-related questions. Whether you are interested in discussing your options with a particular degree, want to change your plan of study, wondering about jobs after your graduate degree, or just interested in exploring your interests, our career consultants are here to help. Login to Handshake to make an appointment now!

Job Search Timelines

Master Student - One Year Program

Master Student - 2+ Year Program or PhD Student Seeking a Non-Academic Position

PhD Student Seeking an Academic Position

Professional School Information:

Graduate and professional schools often require some sort of written statement -- often called a "statement of purpose," "personal statement," or "letter of intent"-- as a part of the application. Some statements require rather specific information--for example, the applicant's intended area of study within a graduate field. Still others are quite unstructured, leaving the applicant free to address a wide range of matters. The importance of the statement varies from school to school and from field to field.

Determine Your Purpose:
  • Usually the purpose is to persuade the admissions committee that you are an applicant who should be chosen. Whatever its purpose, the content must be presented in a manner that will give coherence to the whole statement.
  • Pay attention to the purpose throughout the statement so that extraneous material is left out. 
  • Pay attention to the audience (committee) throughout the statement. Remember that your audience is made up of professionals in their field!
Determine the Content:

Be sure to answer any questions fully. Analyze the questions or guidance statements for the essay completely, and answer all parts. Graduate and professional schools are typically interested in the following matters, although the form of the question(s) and the responses may vary:

  • Your purpose in graduate study. Think this through before you try to answer the question.
  • The area of study in which you wish to specialize. Learn about the field in detail so that you are able to state your preferences using the language of the field.
  • Your intended future use of your graduate study. Include your career goals and plans for the future.
  • Your unique preparation and fitness for study in the field. Correlate your academic background with your extracurricular experience to show how they unite to make you a special candidate.
  • Any problems or inconsistencies in your records or scores, such as a bad semester. Explain in a positive manner. Since this is a rebuttal argument, it should be followed by a positive statement of your abilities. In some instances, it may be more appropriate to discuss this outside of the personal statement.
  • Any special conditions that are not revealed elsewhere in the application, such as a significant (35 hour per week) workload outside of school. This, too, should be followed with a positive statement about yourself and your future.
  • You may be asked, "Why do you wish to attend this school?" Research the school and describe its special appeal to you.

Above all, this statement should contain information about you as a person. They know nothing about you unless you tell them; you are the subject of the statement!

Determine Your Approach and Style:

There is no such thing as the "perfect" way to write a personal statement; there is only the one that best fits you! When constructing your unique personal statement, try to keep the following tips in mind:


  • Be objective, yet self-revelatory. Write directly and in a straightforward manner that tells about your experience and what it means to you.
  • Form conclusions that explain the value and meaning of your experience, such as what you learned about yourself and your field and your future goals. Draw your conclusions from the evidence your life provides.
  • Be specific. Document your conclusions with specific instances. See a list of general words and phrases to avoid using without explanation.
  • Get to the point early on, and catch the attention of the reader.
  • Limit the length to two pages or less. In some specific instances it may be longer, depending on the school's instructions.


  • Use the "what I did with my life" approach.
  • Use the "I've always wanted to be a _____" approach.
  • Use a catalog of achievements. This is only a list of what you have done, and tells the reader(s) nothing about you as a person.
  • Lecture the reader. For example, don't write a statement like, "Communication skills are important in this field." Remember, the committee members are professionals in their field - they know the important skills!
Words and Phrases to Avoid without Explanation:

If you're going to use these words, be prepared to go into specific detail. Don't use them unless you're ready to give concrete examples to explain them!

  • significant
  • interesting
  • challenging
  • satisfying/satisfaction
  • appreciate
  • invaluable
  • exciting/excited enjoyable/enjoy
  • feel good
  • appealing to me
  • appealing aspect
  • I like it
  • it's important
  • I can contribute meant a lot to me
  • stimulating
  • incredible
  • gratifying
  • fascinating
  • meaningful
  • helping people I like helping people
  • remarkable
  • rewarding
  • useful
  • valuable
  • helpful
Where to go for Help:

If you need some help figuring out what to write, login to Handshake to make an appointment with your career consultant and come up with a plan.

Once you have done a draft (or two or three!), show it to people you trust, such as faculty, advisors, family, friends, supervisors, etc. The best people to review your statement are those who know you well and have excellent writing skills. If you want to improve your writing, visit the Writing Center. Writing assistants can help with all aspects of the writing process, from brainstorming and organization to questions of grammar and usage.

Graduate school is a big decision and should be researched thoroughly before applying. Below are some frequently asked questions to get you started in evaluating your interests and needs for graduate school. 

What is Graduate School?

Graduate school constitutes an advanced program of study focused on a particular academic discipline or profession. Traditionally, graduate school has been "academic" (centered on generating original research in a particular discipline), but it may be "professional" (centered on developing skills and knowledge for a specific profession), or a combination of both.

How is Graduate School different from undergraduate studies?

Compared to undergraduate studies, graduate school is a more concentrated course of study and expectations regarding the quality and quantity of your academic work are greater. Graduate programs also entail:

  • focused studies in a specific discipline with fewer elective possibilities
  • rigorous evaluation of your work by professors and peers
  • smaller classes with much student interaction
  • production of original research is often required
Is Graduate School for you?

Meet with your college’s Assistant Director for Career Development to help you figure out if Graduate School is a good next step for you. 

What if I want to study in a different area than my undergraduate major?

It depends on the type of graduate program you wish to attend. Some fields are broad and do not require any particular undergraduate major (ex. law or MBA school). Others require only a few courses in the graduate field of study (ex. psychology graduate programs often require statistics and experimental psychology courses). Some programs require a core set of prerequisites (ex. medical or physical therapy school). Some very technical programs may require a degree in the field or substantial coursework (ex. engineering) . In many cases, you can be admitted even if you haven't taken the prerequisites; you will complete them the first few semesters of graduate school. Sometimes, you will need to go back to school as an undergraduate to take your prerequisites. This is usually the case if you are switching academic fields to an unrelated area and need to show aptitude in the new field (a history major wanting to get a Ph.D. in biology).

How do I go about getting letters of recommendation, if I am not planning on going to graduate school immediately?

Ask your professors to write letters for you before you graduate. Tell them you will be attending grad school at a future date and will send them the addresses later. The professors can keep the letters on file for you until you apply. Many professors will give you a copy of the letter even though you waive the right to see it. To help the professor tailor a recommendation for you, give him or her a resume or list of highlighted activities and skills that you would like mentioned in the letter. Also, remember to send the professors a thank you note! 

What if I am interested in a graduate program at OSU?

The OSU Graduate School provides a lot of information on their web site about graduate study at OSU. They can direct you to graduate advisors, graduate students, and professors.

Graduate and professional school interviews can take various forms: one-on-one meeting, group interview, campus/faculty visits, panel interviews, and/or phone interviews. Many interviewers ask behavioral questions (i.e., tell me about a time...) and scenario questions, so be prepared!


Below are some general guidelines that can help you prepare for any type of interview:


How to Prepare
  • Do your homework: Know the school, the program, and the faculty, especially those with whom you want to work (use the web and your networking skills). Contact graduate students to get the real scoop on the department and faculty. There was a reason you applied to this school and chose this field—recall why and convey that during the interview.
  • Know your goals: Consider whether your goal is to teach, to do research, to go into industry, etc. Really think about what area you’d like to specialize in and what topic you might pursue for your dissertation/thesis.
  • Review your transcript: Be aware of “glitches” in your transcripts and be prepared to explain them (just as you may have done in your statement of purpose). In addition, remind yourself of commitments outside of academia that may have contributed to making you a strong candidate to succeed in graduate school.
  • Practice: Schedule an appointment with the Career Development Center for a mock interview, or at least to discuss interview strategies so you are more prepared when you arrive. You can also practice virtually with StandOut.

During the Interview​

Need some interviewing tips? Click here for more information!

Common Interview Questions

Personal Characteristics / Skills / Strengths:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses as a student?
  • What would a supervisor or professor tell me are your strengths?

Academic Experiences/Performance:

  • Why did you major in _________?
  • When did you choose to enter this occupational field and why?
  • What courses have you enjoyed the most?
  • What courses have been most difficult for you?
  • Do you feel your academic record accurately reflects your abilities and potential?
  • What didn’t you like about your college/university?
  • What will you do if you are not accepted into our program?

Extracurricular Activities:

  • What activities do you enjoy most outside of the classroom?
  • Tell me about any volunteer experiences in which you have participated.


  • What challenges do you think you might face in the graduate program?
  • What would you say is an area in which you need improvement?
  • What would you change about yourself and why?
  • What skills or abilities do you hope to strengthen through our program?


  • How do you see this program fitting into your career goals?

Leadership/Teamwork/Problem Solving Skills, etc.:

  • Tell me about a group in which you were involved. How did you contribute to make this group achieve a goal?
  • Tell me about a time you assumed a leadership role.
  • Tell me how you handle stress.
  • Tell me about a time you were faced with a difficult situation and how you handled it.
  • What was the last book you read or movie you saw?
  • If you could have dinner with someone (living or dead), who would that person be?

Field-Specific Questions & Current Events:
You will undoubtedly encounter questions that related specifically to your chosen field of study. Be certain that you are aware of current trends, issues and controversy in your field so that you will be able to answer questions intelligibly. Below are a few examples:

  • What do you believe to be the major trends in your intended career field at this time?
  • What problem in the world troubles you most? What would you do about it?

Questions Applicants Might Ask an Interviewer:
Asking questions not only helps you as a candidate determine the “fit” of the program with your desired academic and career objectives, but it also communicates to the selection committee the extent of your interest in their program:

  • What characteristics distinguish this program from others in the same academic field?
  • How long does it take typically to complete the program?
  • Where are recent alumni employed? What do most graduates do after graduation?
  • What opportunities are available through the program to gain practical work experience? Are there opportunities such as assistantships, fellowships or internships available? What are the deadlines to apply for these opportunities?
  • Do most students publish an article/conduct research prior to graduation?
  • I've read articles written by ________ and __ --____. To what extent are students involved in assisting these faculty members with related research projects?
  • What types of research projects are current students pursuing?
  • How are graduate test scores, grades, letters of recommendations, and personal statements evaluated for the admissions process?
  • What is the selection timeline? When will candidates be notified about their acceptance into the program?

Non-Academic Careers

A career in academia is an option for some, but it is not for everyone. In fact, many career options exist in industry, government, and non-profit industries for master's and Ph.D students. Login to Handshake to search for non-academic jobs now!