The Senior Year
Welcome to the busiest time of your academic career! You will be immersed in finishing your degree requirements, studying hard to ensure your success and thinking about what’s next. In addition to that, if you are considering graduate or professional school, you will have a huge amount of paperwork to organize in order to attain your goals. The following advice is intended to assist you with all of details you will encounter as you approach the completion of your bachelor’s degree.
Graduation Progress Check
At the beginning of your senior year, double-check your progress toward the degree.
- Have you completed your general education requirements?
- Are there pre-requisites for courses in your major that you need to take?
- Is there a senior exit requirement, comprehensive exam or thesis to complete the major?
- Do your records reflect the correct major?
Meet with your academic advisor and an advisor in the major to be absolutely sure you’re on the right path to fulfilling all requirements for the degree. Find out about the deadline to file the necessary paperwork to graduate and to take part in commencement ceremonies, which are two very different things. Ask your department about qualifying for honors in your major. Taking the time to verify all of this information will save you from the anxiety of last minute surprises as you approach commencement.
It is absolutely crucial to focus on performing at your peak academically. In order to distinguish yourself for college honors, graduate school admission, a fellowship, a good job interview or an important internship, your academic record must reflect hard work and achievement. Grades, and the strong letters of recommendation from faculty that result from your hard work and GPA, are a necessary factor to compete in this global economy. Always do your best and push yourself to do better.
Continue to work closely with your faculty. Ask about research opportunities and mentorship programs. This kind of experience will be especially important if you choose to apply to graduate school because it demonstrates initiative and a familiarity with the work that is required of advanced students.
Living Your Dream
As recommended for the junior year, continue to work on becoming the professional you strive to be. Attend colloquia, seminars, films and book talks related to your major and ignite your passion for the subjects you wish to pursue. Join professional organizations, campus organizations or student publications that support your major and engage with other students about these subjects. Participate in student conferences in your major discipline whenever possible. Take a leadership role in a student club or other organization. Consider fieldwork in your program. Immerse yourself in learning all that you can while you have the tremendous resources of a great university at your fingertips.
If you plan to look for employment upon graduation, learn as much as you can about the most effective job search strategies. Make an appointment to talk with a career counselor and ask for help with how and where to look for a job, how to write an effective resume and cover letter, how to acquire good references and how to do your best in a job interview. Find out if you can sign up for a mock interview at your career center. Watch for career fairs and recruitment events and go to them prepared with a polished resume. Learn the best strategies for networking and use them as often as you can. Find out about the potential for informational interviews and follow up with potential employers. Another great resource is to connect with college alumni who are in your industry of interest. Additionaly, as an HSF scholar visit our services at the HSF Career Center.
Applying to Graduate or Professional School
If you are applying to graduate school, you will need to handle a lot of detailed information about applications, deadlines, fees and supporting paperwork. Develop a plan with timelines to complete this process in a way that will leave you feeling confident and proud of your application rather than compromised and stressed. The more organized you are, the better you will feel about your application.
What follows is a very brief overview so you can become familiar with the basics of applying to graduate school to help you get started. There are likely other issues and requirements you must consider depending on your personal circumstances and pursuits. Take the appropriate steps to get additional information appropriate to your personal needs.
Advising – As you near the end of your junior year, schedule an appointment with your faculty advisor and a staff member in the campus career center. They will help you determine if you’re ready and how to begin. If you determine that you are going ahead with the application process, your faculty will provide the most relevant information about which schools will best meet your needs and academic objectives. Research each suggestion carefully and thoroughly and develop a list of potential programs. Go over the list with your advisor. Once you have decided on an appropriate list of programs, request information, catalogs and applications from each program. Applications usually become available around August.
Deadlines – Start the planning process with a clear understanding of the deadlines to apply to each of the programs on your list. Include deadlines for receipt of exam scores, letters of recommendation and transcripts from each university or community college you’ve attended. Does the university require two applications, one for the graduate office and one for the department? You must meet all the deadlines in order to be considered for admission. Also be aware of the deadlines to take entrance exams in time to meet admission deadlines.
Planning – Buy a calendar and work on filling in your deadlines for each aspect of the application process. Here are some things to include:
- Think about the time you will need to study and prepare for the entrance exam.
- Allow enough time for writing several rough drafts of your statement of purpose. Include enough time to have your professor and academic advisor proofread it and make comments.
- Factor in the time it will take to prepare and proofread each application.
- How long does it take to get an official transcript request processed by the Registrar’s Office? If you’ve attended more than one college, you will need to check on them all.
- Find out how much time your professors want to have in order to complete letters of recommendation and schedule those timeframes into your calendar.
- Be sure to include fellowship and other financial aid deadlines.
Remember that during this whole process you will also be enrolled in your senior year, studying for and taking exams to meet all your requirements. So get started early and plan accordingly. A suggested timeline is available to assist you.
Fellowships – There may be foundation or university fellowships for which you will be eligible. Research this carefully in your career library and with your department.
Statement of purpose – This is one of the most important elements of your graduate school application. You should sound knowledgeable about the field, the graduate program and the faculty in the program. This means you will need to revise the statement for each school on your list.
As with any piece of writing, consider your audience. Look online for advice and guidelines at each campus. Some areas you will need to cover are personal motivation, research interests and how the particular program specifically fits your academic and professional goals. Your statement needs to reflect that your interests are in alignment with the faculty at your school of choice, so make sure to research and reference faculty work. It must be focused and concise. The most important thing is to allow yourself a enough time to write the statement, have your advisor read it, revise it, proofread and put it down to get some distance from it. Do not rush this process!
Exams – Most graduate and professional programs require a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or some sort of entrance exam, such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for Masters in Business Administration (MBA) programs. Find out about the testing schedule in your city. Base your decision about when to take the exam on whether the scores can be obtained in time to meet the deadlines for each program.
Budget – Make sure you put aside the money you will need to pay for the application process. Application fees, transcript fees, exam fees, exam report fees, and mailing costs will all need to be in your budget.
Letters of Recommendation - Select faculty members who are most familiar with your work and who can give you a strong recommendation in your chosen field. Make sure you can rely on them to meet your deadlines. Remember that each faculty member will likely have many letters to write, so out of courtesy, allow plenty of time for them to respond and then check in as the deadline approaches to see if they need to be reminded. Provide each one with an unofficial copy of your transcript and a draft of your statement of purpose so they can be as informed as possible about the strength of your application.
Requesting transcripts – Each university has its own process and fee schedule for requesting transcripts and every Registrar’s Office is inundated with requests each fall. It will be very important that you request transcripts well ahead so your request can be processed in time to meet your program deadlines.
Writing samples or portfolio – Some programs require a sample of your work. Get advice on selecting your best samples from your faculty advisor. Be sure to follow the guidelines for submitting your work.
Review committees – Graduate schools typically receive hundreds of applications each academic year. To optimize consideration of your application, make sure you have met all the requirements for your application and turn everything in as soon as possible. Once your application and fee is received and matched up with your transcripts, letters of recommendation and test scores, your file will be complete. Some universities have what is called rolling admissions, which means that as soon as your file is complete it is reviewed by an graduate admissions committee. Review committees are typically made up of a few members of the tenure-track faculty of the graduate program. They are your primary audience.
In addition to filing a formal petition to graduate with the Registrar’s Office by the published deadline, be sure to sign up to take part in commencement exercises. It is a wonderful time to share all your success with family and friends and a terrific celebration of your academic career.
Congratulations! And remember to stay in touch with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund by joining the Alumni Program. We welcome your participation in this growing network of Latinos and invite you to take the opportunity to become a role model or mentor for all those who follow.