USM Graduate Studies department is located on the Portland Campus. / Nora Devin, Director of Photography

By: Riley Mayes, Web Editor

The spring semester is well underway, and many students are thinking about their post-undergraduate plans and beginning the process of applying to graduate school. 

Beginning the application process can be overwhelming. With so many steps, prerequisites, and options to consider, it can be difficult to know where to start. However, the admissions office and counselors at USM are here to help. 

How to get started

Finding the right program is an important first step for students to take when thinking about graduate school. 

 The Career & Employment Hub is a resource available to all students to help them begin thinking about their academic and professional goals. Students can ask questions and begin to sort through which post-graduate programs may be the best fit for them from those at the Hub. The office is located in Portland at 231 Luther Bonney Hall, and they hold virtual office hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. 

Career Advisors, such as Michelle Drucker, are available to answer questions and help build students’ skills through resume building and interview preparation. Career Advisors can also connect students with faculty members who may be able to answer questions and inform students about potential programs. 

 It doesn’t have to be spring of senior year before students reach out to the Career & Employment Hub. 

“Some students engage with us even in their first year to map out what their career and educational goals are,” said Drucker. “We encourage students to reach out to us early, and often.”  

Another great way to get support is to contact an admissions staff member.  The Office of Admissions has 26 staff members who are available to answer students’ questions and guide them through the process.

What’s the Application Process Like?  

The process for applying to graduate school at USM is not very different from applying to USM for an undergraduate degree. The application requires your academic transcripts, a resume, two letters of recommendation, and a two-part essay: an academic statement and a personal history statement. The academic statement includes why a student wants to study at USM and what program will help them achieve their professional goals. The personal history statement accounts for life experiences, dreams, role models, and any educational, familial, cultural, or economic/social experiences that have influenced a student’s academic path.

Where the graduate application process differs is in the admissions process. In the undergraduate application, a student’s file is reviewed by an admissions committee, in graduate school, the majority of admissions undergo a faculty review. 

What is the timeline for applying?

Rachel Morales, the Director of the Office of Admissions,  recommends that it’s never too early to start thinking about applying to graduate school. 

“Some students even apply by their junior year,” she said, “But some wait until their senior spring.”

It’s important to know that deadlines vary according to the program: some accept applications on a rolling basis, while others have hard deadlines. Students can visit the USM website to get specific information about their program and when they should send application materials in. Additionally, they can meet with a Career Advisor at the Career & Employment Hub to go over details of programs and learn about the criteria of their specific program. 

What are graduate programs looking for? 

According to Morales, there are two factors that are particularly important in a graduate school application: strong writing and a good understanding of the field they are studying. 

A strong personal essay is critical because it gives students a chance to express their goals and any information they want admissions to know. 

“It’s important to remember that if a student doesn’t meet a criterion, they can say that in their essay,”  said Morales. “The essay provides the opportunity for flexibility, and allows us to complete a holistic review of a student’s application.” 

A great way to get a better sense of a program, said Morales, is to reach out to faculty members. 

“USM has wonderful faculty who want to work with students, and help students move forward with their academic and professional goals,” said Morales. 

This can give students a chance to ask questions and develop a relationship with faculty that may be helpful in their review process. 


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