The Center for Life Beyond Reed

Graduate School

How do I identify programs

  • Faculty. Ask your advisor and/or other faculty in your discipline if they know of programs that fit your interests. Your professors have amassed a wealth of knowledge about graduate school through their own grad school experience, their connections with colleagues at other institutions, and by helping other Reedies with the process of applying.  
  • Research articles. What is the research that you're most inspired by? More than likely, the authors are conducting that research in an academic setting and mentoring grad students. Look not only at their current institution, but also at the place(s) where they did their training. You might also look at other researchers who they frequently collaborate with.
  • Search engines. After you've exhausted other avenues of finding programs, grad school search engines are a great way to round out your list. The good and bad news about search engines is that they're fairly comprehensive, meaning that you won't miss anything, but you may have to sift through quite a few programs that don't fit your interests. There are a ton of different search engines and for the most part the content is the same so you probably don't need to use more than one, just pick the interface you like best. A few of our favorites are:

Choosing where to apply

There are many different factors that go into choosing graduate programs. 
  • Criteria
    • Type of program—often different programs within field, for example someone interested in the environment might choose between programs focusing on environmental law, environmental policy, environmental management, environmental science, etc.
    • Ranking
    • Faculty research interests
    • Course & final project requirements
      • # of credits
      • Do these adequately prepare you for next step in your career
      • Flexibility to take courses of interest
    • Length of program
    • Graduation rate
    • Cost
      • Tuition & fees
      • Funding
      • Cost of living
      • Moving expenses
    • Prerequisites
    • Job placement rates and types of jobs for recent graduates
    • Location
      • Climate
      • Recreation
      • Diversity
    • Professional licensing requirements
    • On-campus housing
    • Response to inquiries
      • Do they respond in a timely manner
      • Are responses helpful

What's required to apply?

Application materials generally include:

  • Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose
  • CV or resume
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • GRE or other admissions exam scores
  • Online application form
  • Transcripts
  • Application fee
Additionally, some programs may require one or more of the following
  • Additional essays
  • Writing sample
  • Portfolios
  • Audition
  • Prerequisite coursework
Application essay resources CVs CV Samples Free Study resources Paid prep


Email Beyond Reed for general advice about pursuing a graduate degree. Reed alumni can be excellent resources and are generally happy to share their perspectives and experiences. Check out the Alumni Directory and use the advanced search option to identify alumni in your field of study or who may have attended a graduate program of interest.

Planner and Timeline

Applying to graduate school takes advanced planning. Don Asher '83 created this Graduate School Workbook (PDF) that enumerates all of the ins and outs of the process. You can also use our planner and timeline to help keep your process on track.

Example Outreach Email

Part of applying to graduate school might involve outreach to potential advisors. Here's an example of this email which you can use as a template.

Application Resources

The Peterson's Guides list all accredited programs of study in the US.  They are available in hard copy in the Reed Library as well as online.  Once you have put together a list of potential programs of interest, use these guides to help sift through the specific details. is another recommended online resource.

If you are also looking for funding, keep in mind that the primary source of financial support is the graduate institution itself.  For additional resources, see if you can find anything relevant to you using the Graduate and Post-doctoral Extramural Support (GRAPES) database, housed at UCLA.

Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)

Graduates schools often require students to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).  In addition to the general test, subject tests are offered in:  Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology.  If you are likely to need to take one of these, please note that subject tests are offered on a limited schedule and can only be taken in September, October, and April.  Plan accordingly!

GRE Fee Reduction Certificates: If you think you might be eligible for financial assistance, contact Reed's financial aid office for information about GRE Fee reductions.

GRE Learning Express Library: Create an account and take practice tests. Free!

GRE Accommodations