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How Applying to Grad School Works

You have your bachelor's degree; now it's time to start looking at grad school. See more college pictures.

For most people who pursue higher education, a college degree is the end of the line. It's typically enough to secure a good job and achieve a general sense of intellectual fulfillment. But for a select few, there's more -- three to seven years more, to be exact.

A graduate-level education, or just plain "grad school," is the next step after finishing college with an undergraduate degree. There are lots of reasons why people decide to pursue a graduate degree. It may be for career advancement, to reach an increased pay grade, to become a doctor or lawyer or college professor, or for the sheer joy of continued education. The latter is somewhat rare, though -- attaining a graduate degree is not a simple task.

Going to grad school typically requires significant time and effort, not to mention pre-planning. Good college grades and test scores are crucial. The classes are advanced, and depending on the type of program, graduate study can be a full-time job. Many master's programs require a thesis, and Ph.D.s require a dissertation, both massive undertakings involving heavy research and writing, as well as self-driven study. So most of the people who go that route have a good, concrete reason for doing so.

If you're one of those people, you may already know that getting into a graduate program can be a complex, daunting task. In this article, we'll address the basic steps involved in beginning the pursuit of a graduate degree. We'll find out how to go about choosing among the various degrees, schools and programs, what type of preparation is involved, what the application entails and how you might finance a graduate education.

The first step in going after any type of degree, graduate or otherwise, is deciding where to apply. How do you know which graduate program is right for you?