Applying to Professional & Graduate Schools

Pathways to Further Education

  Graduate Schools Professional Schools Post-Grad Diplomas/Certificates
What is it? Intensive study of a particular area/subject, often involving a strong research focus Study leading to a professional designation such as lawyer, teacher or doctor Training in career-focused areas such as pharmacy technician or early childhood education
Duration? 1-2 years (or more) varies, generally 2 years or more 1-2 years
Admission Requirements generally a strong GPA, research experience, references strong GPA, relevant experience, extra-curricular involvement, references university degree, demonstrated interest in particular areas
Related Tip Sheets Applying to Graduate School tip sheet

How to Apply to Grad School Flow Chart

Preparing for Professional School tip sheets Preparing for Standardized Tests tip sheets

Evaluating and Choosing Programs

  • What programs interest you and at what institutions are they taught?
  • What are your goals for further study and how well do specific programs meet your goals?
  • Are you looking for a specific research focus? Which faculty members research in your areas of interest?
  • What are the program requirements? Do you have the core qualifications or do you need to pursue further courses and gain experience before applying?
  • Have you spoken with your professors and other experts to learn about an institution's reputation, strengths, and weaknesses?
  • Is the campus location right for you? Where possible, visit the campus. Research the costs, campus life, housing, student services, funding / financial assistance, and other aspects of student life that are important to you.

What are common requirements for admission to graduate studies

  • Most require completion of an undergraduate degree.
  • Many require courses in a related area of study.
  • Grades are important but vary by program and institution. Most institutions require a minimum B+ or 3.0 GPA for the last 5 or 10 credits (1 or 2 years of full-time study). However, institutions report that most successful applicants have grades significantly higher than the minimum. As each program administers this requirement differently, review each program's website and contact the institutions directly.
  • Some programs require related experience in the field. 

When should I start?

Begin the process at least 1 year before you plan to apply:

  • Research programs to find deadlines and application requirements.
  • Register and prepare for any tests (e.g. GMAT, GRE), using books or a prep course or both.
  • Complete your statement of purpose (personal statement) at least one month before the deadline to allow time for feedback.
  • Complete the online application before the deadline. Deadlines vary by program and can be as early as fall for entry the following September. 
  • Approach your references well in advance of the deadline to request letters of reference. Provide them with a copy of your statement and resume / CV to help them write a strong letter.

Start Early! Graduate schools require a high GPA, strong references, and relevant knowledge and experience.

Improve your GPA! Visit the AA&CC and the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) to improve your academic skills.

Cultivate References! Get to know your professors. Their research is interesting! Professors who know you fairly well are able to write strong reference letters for you.

Get Involved! Build relevant experience and skills by engaging in paid work, volunteer, and extracurricular activities.

What supporting documents may be required?

  • Official transcripts from all previous post-secondary education
  • Online application forms
  • Reference letters
  • Autobiographical sketch outlining notable academic and non academic activities OR statement of purpose
  • Test scores / results where required
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Writing sample
  • Health records and / or Proof of Residence

Personal Statement or Essay of Intent

Admission committees typically request a brief essay (500 to 2000 words), sometimes called a Personal Statement (also known as Statement of Interest or Purpose). Length and content will vary by institution and program, but generally these essays provide insight on:

  • Your reaserch and / or professional interests
  • Your future goals and career plan
  • Your knowledge of, and experience in, the field
  • How their institution and / or program will meet your goals
  • What you will contribute to the program
  • Your writing ability

We have two short exercises, led via video, to get you started on writing your personal statement!

Resources to help you research and apply for further education

What if I Don't Get In?

Admission to graduate school is very competitive. It is important to have a back-up plan. Possibilities include:

  • Reapply: Contact the program admissions staff and / or a faculty member to talk about ways to make your application stronger. The AA&CC can strategize with you on improving your next application as well.
  • Find Work: The AA&CC can assist you with your job search for up to 2 years after graduation. Sometimes relevant experience improves you application.
  • Consider Alternate Careers: Speak to a Career Counsellor who can help you generate alternative career plans. See our What Can I Do with my Degree? tip sheets. Visit our library, and review our career-focused ebooks in the U of T library catalogue. 
  • Take a Post-Graduate Diploma or Certificate: Gain technical knowledge and skills to facilitate entry into a new field of work. 
  • Broaden your Horizons: Travel, volunteer, and experience new things!

Evaluate which of these possibilities is right for you. Use the services of the AA&CC to help you clarify goals and develop strategies. We are here to help!

The AA&CC can help! Attend the Graduate & Professional Schools Fair in early fall. Review tip sheets on the AA&CC website: Admission Tests, Post-Graduate Programs, Preparing for the Graduate & Professional Schools Fair, and What Can I Do with my Degree? section.
Please note: While this tip sheet aims to ensure accuracy, requirements do change. Consider it a starting point for your further research. Visit individual school websites for detailed, up-to-date information about admission requirements and application procedures.