Preparing for CU-Boulder’s graduate school

On an economy where employment options are decreasing by the second, pay cuts are more common than promotions and bankruptcy cripples companies daily, the job market is looking grim.

Students at the University of Colorado are nearing May graduation and bad news is filling the air for those soon-to-be graduates looking for a job.

CU grad school deadlines

Remaining deadlines to apply to programs beginning fall 2010L

Jan. 31: Business, PhD

Feb. 1: Aerospace engineering, applied mathematics, audiology, economics, education, French, German, journalism, music, speech language and hearing sciences

Feb. 15: Engineering management

Feb. 28: Computer science, MS or ME

March 1: Civil engineering

April 1: Business, MS

April 10: Classics

Rolling: Chemical engineering

So for those of you who are still sending out good thoughts as you sit by the phone and wait for your dream job to come and find you now that you have a college degree, it’s time to face reality.

More than 27 percent of Americans have at least a Bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American community survey. That puts you in a large demographic, making it a challenge to market yourself to employers nationwide.

In Colorado, more than 35 percent of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree, creating even more competition for in-state jobs. Not to mention you don’t have the experience to back up your degree.

But wait, don’t freak out yet. There is good news.

A graduate degree could improve your chances of getting a job by putting you among only 10 percent of Americans who have an advanced degree.

Right for you?

Grad school is not for everyone, but for some it is a way to explore a discipline in depth or further your career path.

“Some professions require an advanced degree, and in others, an advanced degree can be helpful in terms of job security, advancement potential and salary,” Lisa Severy, CU’s director of career services, wrote in an e-mail. “In general, we know that people with advanced degrees tend to make more money over their lifetimes than those who don’t.”

For other students, grad school is not a requirement, and the benefits it may bring are not worth the extra time and financial commitments.

“We encourage students thinking about graduate school to really do their homework in choosing the right program and school as well as job opportunities after completion,” Severy said.

Filling out an application

CU’s graduate programs have a standard application, but each department has various additions to the application required for their specialties.

The standard portion includes general information, education history and requests for recommendations and is included in every department’s application. A personal statement is also required for each application, however, the requested information will vary per department.

The personal statement is the best place to stand out on your application, said Deborah Irwin, coordinator of graduate student services at CU.

“Focus on the personal statement if you want to get noticed,” Irwin said. “Think about who you’re writing for and adjust from there. You may want to be a little more formal for a science department, but obviously you should be somewhat creative when writing to an artistic program.”

And don’t forget to contact your department for any questions regarding the program or application. Each department is different and you don’t want to botch the application. So get your application in before the deadline and follow directions carefully.

Missed the deadline?

Application deadlines vary per department, but many program applications are due Jan. 15, with some earlier, others later.

What? You missed the deadline for your department! It took you four years to decide grad school was right for you and now you have to wait until next year to get in?

Don’t worry. It’s not all doom and gloom. CU offers continuing education classes, which allow students who aren’t accepted into an advanced program to take classes that can transfer and count toward a graduate degree when they do enroll.

Check out your department’s Web site for more information or visit

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