Applying to Another Graduate Degree Program?

Maybe you need to leave your current graduate degree program for a different one, realizing the one you are in is not the fit you had hoped.

Perhaps you are currently in a master’s degree program and you know you want to apply to doctoral programs.

Whatever the motivation, deciding to apply to another degree program, while already in graduate school can mean thinking a lot about personal and professional goals.  Having a clear idea of your goals will help you to narrow your search, focus your application documents, and identify a potential career trajectory. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before applying again to graduate school, and consider incorporating some of your thoughts into your personal statement:

Why are you applying to graduate school again?

A basic, but essential question! If you aren’t completely sure of your reasons for applying to another program, you will definitely want to clarify that question before sending out your applications. Attending another program without a clear idea of why you want to be there and how it would be helpful for your future career can lead to you doubting your decision a few years later. It would be better to delay applying than to jump into another program.

What are your professional goals and how can getting another degree help to achieve them?

If you are seeking to move from one graduate program to another, or to begin a doctoral program from a master’s degree, it is very important to identify how the program to which you are applying will help you to achieve your professional goals. Will a degree in a more specific area help you to enter a different field? Are you interested in further expanding your current research so you can continue to contribute to the scientific community? The admissions committee will be wondering about why you are interested in the program when they are reading your documents, and a clear answer will help them realize why this program will help you to achieve your goals. You should show that you have reflected and gained self-knowledge, and then share the many ways that their program is a good match.

What can another degree give you that your current degree cannot?

Clarifying what a new degree would give you that is different from what your current or previous degree offers is an important part of making the decision to apply to graduate school again, and as such, should be an important part of your personal statement. Do you need a specific degree to work in the field in which you are interested? Would another program’s applied experiences give you more of a background, or more training, for what you would like to do in the future? Make sure this is articulated in your application materials!

What have you learned from your last degree that would help you with your next degree?

This question is particularly helpful in guiding your personal statement. You have attended at least one graduate program, and from it, you have acquired unique experiences, even if now your goals are different. Focus on the positives from your current or previous graduate program, including what you learned and how it got you interested in continuing your education in another area, and why the new program is a good fit for you.

For more information on writing a personal statement for applications while already attending a graduate school program, schedule a career coaching appointment.

By Kalle Nelson
Kalle Nelson Graduate Assistant