Introduction to Graduate School

Graduate school is an opportunity to examine a field of your choice with more specificity and direction. It gives you the tools you need to succeed in the industry of your choice. Preparation for grad school can begin as early as your first year of college as you begin conversations with your Advisor for Career Exploration about how your values, interests, and strengths align with potential fields of study. Once you have a concrete understanding of the graduate programs you are interested in, make an appointment with the relevant industry-specific Advisor who will support you in the application process. Some definitions may be helpful:

  • Graduate school is an opportunity to examine a field of your choice with more specificity and direction which does not necessarily lead to specific licensure.

    • For Example: Marissa has spent a few years coordinating data collection for a pediatric and maternal health outcomes project but wants to move into a more analytic/scientist role in the future. She has decided to complete a master’s degree in epidemiology with a focus on population health.

  • Professional schools are graduate level institutions that prepare you for careers in specific fields and often have distinct licensure components.

    • For Example: Janelle wants to pursue a career as a research librarian after spending her summers interning at the Wellesley College Archives. She has decided to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science.

While the difference between the two can lose distinction at some point, for the purposes of this resource page, we will refer to both types of programs as “graduate school.” Degree types and nomenclature can, and often do, vary by country. Below is an overview of the different levels of academic degree programs in the United States. Be sure to consult your community specific resource pages for guidance related to your distinct area of interest.

Questions to ask:

  • What types of graduate programs are you thinking about?
  • Why are you interested in and considering graduate study?
  • What are you hoping to be able to do with this graduate degree?


Do I need to attend graduate school?

If you are thinking about attending graduate school it is very important to consider whether or not graduate school is necessary. If so, you will also want to decide on the best time to attend, which may not be immediately after graduating from Wellesley. A number of resources are available to help you decide if, and when, graduate school is necessary.

Questions to ask:

  • Why am I interested in going to graduate school?
  • Will a graduate program provide me with applicable licensure or certifications necessary to begin or advance my career?
  • Will graduate school provide me with tools, connections, and information needed to pursue a career in __?
  • Will I get access to networks of people and resources by attending a graduate program?
  • Is it a necessary step to begin my career?
  • Is it a necessary step to advance my career?  In other words, I cannot take the next step until I have a graduate degree.
  • Is it more for personal fulfillment?
  • Can I afford and manage the practical aspects of spending the time, money, and energy to devote to grad school?
  • Have I done enough research to know which programs are a strong fit for my goals?
  • When is the best time to attend graduate school (if it is the right choice for me)?


Attending graduate school part-time

As you contemplate graduate school, one thing you should consider is whether you want to pursue graduate school full-time or part-time. It is true that some graduate programs require that you attend as a full-time student; medical schools and top-tier MBA programs often have a full-time requirement. However, many programs allow students the flexibility to attend part-time. Some institutions have even designed programs specifically for working professionals to be completed on a part-time basis. As trends in student expectations and the course delivery changes, these programs have become more and more prevalent.

Below are some benefits and drawbacks to attending graduate school part-time:


  • Graduate school becomes less of a financial burden as you are able to maintain a steady income.
  • Employers might offer tuition reimbursement or tuition assistance, which can reduce, and in some cases, eliminate the cost of tuition.
  • You are able to continuously gain additional professional experience while working towards your degree.
  • You are readily able to connect what you are learning in the classroom to real-world experiences.


  • It typically takes longer to complete your degree when going part-time.
  • Juggling a full-time (40 hours/week) job with coursework and class time in the evenings and on weekends is very challenging.
  • Part-time students are not eligible for some scholarships and certain types of financial aid.
  • In most countries, international students will not be eligible for student visas.
  • Depending on how long its takes you to complete the degree, the cost will rise and the program faculty and curriculum may change.

Questions to ask:

  • Is going to graduate school part-time something I would like to consider?
  • Are you choosing to attend a full-time program part-time?
  • Do programs that interest me allow students to attend part-time?
  • What are the cost implications of attending part-time versus full-time?