Applying to Graduate School 101: How is applying to graduate school different from applying to undergrad?

A bird's eye view of the Science Commons in Atwood Chemistry Center.
A bird’s eye view of the Science Commons in Atwood Chemistry Center.

This Fall, we are publishing a special series of blog posts about applying to graduate school–at Emory and in general. Our goal is to demystify the application process and help applicants feel confident as they seek a home for their graduate studies. This post by our admissions team addresses the differences between applying to college versus graduate school.

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Applying at the graduate school level can be confusing for applicants because of some key differences between graduate and undergraduate programs. Specifically, most undergraduate programs have a central admissions process that selects students for admission into the school. The admissions committee might consider the student’s preparation for a specific major, but students are admitted into the college and then choose a course of study for themselves. For our undergraduates, we trust the Emory College admissions team to bring in great students–but it’s the student’s who decide to come through the Department of Chemistry’s doors.

For graduate schools, the application system is still often shared at the school level. However, the specific application you see is more than likely tailored to the individual program to which you are applying and the majority of the review process is also likely to be handled directly by that program. At Emory, you apply to the chemistry graduate program using CollegeNET, the Laney Graduate School’s online application system. Laney immediately forwards those applications to chemistry—there is no additional screening at the school level. Department of Chemistry faculty, led by a graduate committee, then conduct a whole file review of each application.

Some specifics in our application:

What does this mean for you?

Most of your questions about applying will be answered by the program directly rather than a central admissions office. For our chemistry program at Emory, your most direct line to admissions officers is to email gradchem [at] emory [dot] edu. That mailbox is shared by all key admissions administrators and we can respond quickly to your questions from a central location, conferring with multiple people, if needed. There is also a lot of good information on our website, including frequently asked questions. If you make a mistake on your application or need to make a change, gradchem [at] emory [dot] edu is also the right contact.

It still makes sense to become familiar with graduate school that houses the program to which you are applying. Emory’s Laney Graduate School website describes many school-level policies and programs in which the Department of Chemistry participates. Prospective students might be particularly interested in the Professional Development Support (PDS) program that offers students up to $7,500 over the course of their graduate career for conferences, research travel, and training outside Emory. The IMSD program in which chemistry participates is also administered at the school level.

Another major difference is a more personal one—college students can get a lot out of the experience even if they have no idea what they want to do. Graduate school is suited to students who feel ready to devote themselves to intensive study in a discipline. You can’t apply to the chemistry graduate program at Emory and then decide to complete a degree in physics or biology (although you can apply to up to two Emory programs with one application). Graduate school requires students to be committed to a particular course of study. There are opportunities to customize, but also an expectation that students will specialize. That doesn’t mean we won’t help you or that you won’t get to explore–it does mean that graduate school in general, and our program in particular, is probably not right for you if it’s just the “next step”.

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Ready to apply? Visit chemistry.emory.edu/apply. Applications are due by December 1st, 2018 for entry in Fall 2019.

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