Applying to Graduate School

This blog is part of our #WhatsNext series for former volunteers, inspired by the What’s Next Notebook resource from Catholic Volunteer Network and Catholic Apostolate Center. In each blog, we will explore helpful tips for looking back on your volunteer experience, saying goodbye, determining your next steps, and sustaining your spiritual growth during the transition to “life after volunteering.”


Every year approximately 15 percent of full-time volunteers go on to attend graduate school. The process of applying for graduate school can be time consuming, so it is recommended that you begin the process about a year and a half before your intended start date. Keep in mind that most application deadlines are between December and March.

Reminder: Catholic Volunteer Network keeps an updated list of graduate programs that offer special scholarships and assistantships for former volunteers. You can learn more about these academic opportunities by clicking HERE.

Enjoying our #WhatsNext blog series? Download your copy of the What’s Next Notebook by clicking here.

Step One: Research

What do you want to study? What type of degree or certification are your seeking? What school would you like to attend? Are you looking for a traditional classroom experience or do you prefer an online program? These are all big questions that require much thought and prayer. Take some time to consider all your options before moving forward.

Step Two: Put Your Vision into Words

You’ve probably heard it said that “Master’s degrees are the new Bachelor’s,” which suggests that Master’s degrees are now the standard level of education required to be competitive in the job market. Everyone is doing it, and you may feel that you need to also just to keep up. However, grad school is a costly undertaking – both in time and money. It’s important you are pursuing the right degree for the right reasons. Take some time to think through your motives and practice verbalizing why you want to go to grad school. When you can easily summarize your career ambitions, you will have an easier time taking the next steps. And now that you can talk about it, talk about it! Mention your plans to friends and colleagues in the field to see if they have advice or connections that will help you get into the best academic programs.

Step Three: Secure All Admission Requirements

Every grad school has different requirements, so be sure to have a grasp on the demands of the schools you are applying to. Identify the number and types of references needed, and begin to think of which individuals you would like to utilize. You can even reach out to your references at this early stage to let them know about your plans and seek their advice. Additionally, most schools require applicants to take certain standardized tests before applying. It is best to do this approximately three months before you intend to submit your application. The following are the most commonly required tests:

  • GRE (Graduate Record Examination, – often required for degrees in Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, etc.
  • GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test, – often required for degrees in Business and Management.
  • MAT (Miller Analogy Test, – accepted by some Social Science and Humanities programs.
  • LSAT (Law School Admissions Test, – required for admission to Law School.
  • MCAT (Medical College Admission Test, – required for admission to Medical School.

Step Four: Submit Applications

It is important to carefully follow each school’s specific application instructions, as universities often have unique requirements. Be sure to take note of deadlines and give yourself plenty of time to submit all materials on time. Enlist the help of a couple trusted friends to proofread your application and personal statement – you might be amazed by the typos that your eyes can fail to catch after so many revisions. As much as possible, send all your documents at one time, converting files into PDFs to ensure that they are kept in a readable format. Finally, don’t forget to scan documents and keep a backup file of everything you submit and follow up with the school to make sure that your application has been received.

Thank you for diving into our #WhatsNext series! Next week, we will explore the theme of Discernment – Religious Vocations, in which we will discuss more possibilities for allowing the Spirit to help in your discernment process.

Read more blogs in this series by visiting our blog and clicking the #WhatsNext icon!

Be sure to register and receive all our resources for former volunteers, including the What’s Next Notebook and our Weekly Job Bank, by clicking here!





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