Preparing for Graduate School

In some respects, you are setting the stage for your graduate school application the day you walk on campus as a freshman. Your choices of major, extracurricular commitments, development of work habits, friendships and knowledge of support resources will all contribute to your readiness to enter graduate school after earning your bachelor’s degree from UMBC. Above all, your academic performance and your connection with faculty mentors will determine your readiness to enter graduate school and your competitiveness in the admissions process.

Establishing Relationships with Faculty Mentors

UMBC faculty can be your greatest resource throughout the graduate school process. Aside from writing letters of recommendation, faculty members can provide keen insight and advice about selecting a graduate school and particular programs. Often professors can offer a unique perspective on various graduate programs in your field of study. If you haven’t already developed a relationship with a faculty member who shares your interests by your senior year, it is important that you do so now. You should select a faculty member who you have taken classes with and visit him/her during office hours to discuss various issues including graduate school. Developing a relationship will also be useful when it comes time to request letters of recommendation.

Undergraduate advisement coordinators can direct you to a faculty advisor in your department. Faculty advisors may be able to offer some assistance with identifying specific programs in your major:

The PreMedical and PreDental Advising Office – For pre-med, dental, optometry, podiatry, and veterinary medicine, contact Michelle Bulger, CNMS Dean’s office, at or in the Dean’s Office of the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, University Center, Room 116, 410-455-8068.

For allied health advisement (nursing, physical therapy, pharmacy, and physician’s assistant), contact the Office of Academic and Pre-Professional Advising, (410) 455-2729, Sherman Hall, 2nd floor.

Building on Your Strengths

Grades and test scores are important factors in the grad school application process, but they are only one part of the total picture. Aside from basic coursework, begin to pay attention to other aspects and experiences that you have that make you a stronger candidate. These include lab work, volunteer or work experience, awards and honors and extra-curricular activities. As you prepare your application, gather any information and materials that demonstrate these accomplishments including letters of recommendation, writing samples, and a resume, which many schools now request in addition to your application. If you need assistance with writing a resume to include with your graduate school application, contact the UMBC Career Center.

Here are some noteworthy accomplishments that should always be highlighted:

  • Laboratory research experience, particularly if it is supported by grants, such as the UMBC Undergraduate Research Award
  • Major creative achievement in the arts
  • Participation in professional conferences, on campus and elsewhere (e.g., UMBC Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day)
  • Solo recitals, major public performances or exhibitions
  • Articles published in campus publications (e.g., UMBC Review, Bartleby) or in external journals or newspapers
  • Completion of a senior thesis or other major capstone project
  • Leadership positions in organizations related to your field (e.g., UMBC chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers)
  • Professional experience in your field
  • Successful study abroad experience
  • Inventing a commercially successful product or holding a patent.


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