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Advising for Graduate and Pre-Professional Programs, including Pre-Health, MBA, and more.

CALE offers services to students planning to apply to graduate programs. This process can be difficult to navigate, as there are numerous paths to graduate studies, especially if you are considering a pre-professional track to pursue a career in medicine, business, law, etc.

Below are a few tips on how to apply to these programs.

For General Graduate Programs

Most graduate schools will require submission of an essay which summarizes your experiences, interests and future goals. This essay is a crucial part of your application, as it provides not only an autobiographical sketch of yourself as a candidate, but also a chance for admission committees to see your ability to analyze and reflect on why you want to attend graduate school. Plan to start this early, and to write several drafts before you submit your final application. During the writing process, ask several people (faculty, mentors, career counselors, etc.) to read and provide feedback on your essay.

It will typically be necessary to submit around 3-4 letters of recommendation along with your application. These letters should come from professors or research mentors who know your work well, and who can give very specific and positive feedback on your strengths and capabilities. Letters from employers are less useful, as they are less able to reflect on your academic performance and capabilities. It is wise to provide reference writers with your resume/CV, information about the programs to which you're applying, and any other data that may help them in the construction of your letters. Plan to ask for letters well in advance, and set the deadline early in order to compensate for any delays that may arise.

Most schools will require you to take a form of admission test. For many schools, this will be the GRE, but check with schools to find their exact requirements:

  1. GRE (Graduate Record Examinations): Note that while most schools require only the general test, which is offered year round, some may ask you to take a subject-specific test. There are held three times a year, in October, November and April.
  2. GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test)
  3. LSAT (Law School Admissions Test)
  4. DAT (Dental Admissions Test)
  5. MAT (Miller Analogies Test)

Many schools will require you to submit an up-to-date version of your resume or CV. Come to the CALE for review of this document by scheduling an appointment on Next Steps here.

Not all schools and programs currently offer interviews. Many programs find that due to the large number of applicants, personal interviews are not always feasible. If you are invited to interview on-campus, come by the career center for a mock interview.

Students applying for graduate school fellowships such as the NSF, Hertz, NDSEG, etc. should contact the Fellowships Advising Office (FASA) to schedule an appointment for advice. The CDC staff do not review nor comment on applications or essays for fellowships. This is a highly specialized area and requires the input from the FASA staff who understand the requirements and also have sample essays for review in their library. Caltech students can find an online guide to graduate fellowships on the FASA here.

The deadlines for most competitive programs fall between December and January, with some schools accepting applications into the spring. It is ideal to start the process of interviewing and applying during the summer before your senior year (if you are choosing to matriculate directly into a graduate program).

  1. How is the university ranked in the field you are studying?
  2. What faculty members are working on projects that interest you? A good way to learn this is by talking to your current professors and research mentors. They will often be able to point you to the programs and mentors that will be best suited to your goals.
  3. What curriculum can you expect? What courses or research are required.
  4. Where is the university located?
  5. What types of financial aid are available?
  6. Do most graduates of the program continue in academia, or do many of them move on to an industry job? What types of programs or industries do graduates typically move on to? What is the typical starting salary for graduates of the program?

For Pre-Professional Programs in Business

Earning an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree can prepare graduates for a variety of careers from business to the non-profit sector. An MBA can open up many new career options for a candidate as well as to strengthen and balance their undergraduate degree. Courses taken in an MBA program typically involve finance, accounting, marketing, consulting, and management. An MBA program will typically last around two years.

An undergraduate degree related to business is typically not necessary for admission. Candidate qualifications are typically measured by GPA and GMAT scores. It is highly desirable to have some work experience, extra-curricular activities and volunteer work. In addition, some quantitative background, including statistics and calculus is highly desirable.

The GMAT can be taken year round. Scores last for five years, and your most recent three scores are submitted to schools when you apply. A majority of schools average out the three scores.

  1. How is the university/program ranked?
  2. How suited is the program to your eventual goals?
  3. What types of internships and jobs do graduates hold?
  4. How early in the program are you required to pick a concentration and electives?
  5. What type of format is used in the curriculum?
    • Case Method - Many schools use historical examples. Students analyze past decisions and predict future development.
    • Skills Based Method - Often based on quantitative skills as they apply to business models.
    • Standard Lecture Method - Some schools still utilize the traditional lecture method of education.

Note that many programs prefer applicants who develop their careers for 4-5 years after graduating with an undergraduate degree. It is highly recommended that you develop a strong application before applying for the first time.

Take a look at these additional resources!

Not all schools and programs currently offer interviews. Many programs find that due to the large number of applicants, personal interviews are not always feasible. If you are invited to interview on-campus, come by the career center for a mock interview.

Students applying for graduate school fellowships such as the NSF, Hertz, NDSEG, etc. should contact the Fellowships Advising Office (FASA) to schedule an appointment for advice. The CDC staff do not review nor comment on applications or essays for fellowships. This is a highly specialized area and requires the input from the FASA staff who understand the requirements and also have sample essays for review in their library. Caltech students can find an online guide to graduate fellowships on the FASA here.

The deadlines for most competitive programs fall between December and January, with some schools accepting applications into the spring. It is ideal to start the process of interviewing and applying during the summer before your senior year (if you are choosing to matriculate directly into a graduate program).

  1. How is the university ranked in the field you are studying?
  2. What faculty members are working on projects that interest you? A good way to learn this is by talking to your current professors and research mentors. They will often be able to point you to the programs and mentors that will be best suited to your goals.
  3. What curriculum can you expect? What courses or research are required.
  4. Where is the university located?
  5. What types of financial aid are available?
  6. Do most graduates of the program continue in academia, or do many of them move on to an industry job? What types of programs or industries do graduates typically move on to? What is the typical starting salary for graduates of the program?

For Pre-Professional Programs in Law

Currently, there is no pre-law program at Caltech. However, many students pursuing a degree in law come from various backgrounds, and CALE has experience advising students to apply for law programs despite not having enrolled in a pre-law degree.

Applying to law school is typically facilitated by the Law School Credential Assembly Service (LSAC). Almost all law schools in the United States work with the service. The LSAC standardizes coursework and transcripts, and sends the information to all schools to which you apply along with your LSAT scores and writing sample, and personal essays. Visit the website at www.LSAC.org for more information.

The best time to take the LSAT is June or September/October. It is possible to take the test multiple times, but schools will see all scores. Some average the scores out, while a few will look only at the most recent score.

The GMAT can be taken year round. Scores last for five years, and your most recent three scores are submitted to schools when you apply. A majority of schools average out the three scores.

  1. The personal essay is a chance for you to stand out from other applicants. Plan to focus on experiences that set you apart and which have led you to apply for a degree in the law field. Plan to write several drafts, and to have multiple people review the essay for you before final submission.

Every school has individual requirements about how many and what type of letters they will accept as part of the application. Most schools require between two to four. The best choices are academic letters from professors who know your work very well.

While the official LSAC deadline is February 15, it is wise to submit your application as early as possible. Most schools admit students on a rolling basis.

  1. Do my grades and LSAT scores match the school's requirements? A useful site to compare this information can be found at www.bc.edu/LawLocator
  2. What is the school's reputation in the law community?
  3. Is the school a good match for my skills and interests?
  4. Is the school in a geographical location where I would eventually like to settle for a career? (much of the networking process is built during the law school years)

For Pre-Health Programs

CALE offers advising and information services to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as to alumni interested in pursuing careers in health-related fields.

To make an appointment, please email James Berk at jberk@caltech.edu or schedule an appointment directly on Next Steps here.

If you are interested in pursuing medicine, please plan out your academic studies, discuss volunteer opportunities, and review additional aspects of your candidacy.

Sample Course Requirements

Preparing for a Career in Health Care

During your application cycle, our office is available to review personal statements, application essays, and secondary essays. We will also provide a letter of recommendation upon request.

These can be conducted in both standard format and in MMI format. Appointments are required.

  1. Each term, 2–4 workshops are conducted that cover a variety of topics related to applications for admission into health science programs.

Each term, you are invited to join us to meet with professionals from a variety of medical specialties to focus on ways to increase your knowledge of the profession, as well as network within the industry.

During the summer term, many students choose to shadow physicians through programs established with Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, Huntington Memorial Hospital, and UCLA Medical Center. Individual opportunities are also available at several other hospitals including Cedars Sinai Medical Center, and USC.

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