Graduate School

GRE (Graduate Record Exam)

Most graduate programs require prospective students to take the GRE prior to application. The GRE general test measures skills that are acquired over a long period of time and are not related to any specific field of study. The skills measured include the test taker’s ability in three areas:

  • Analytical Writing
  • Verbal
  • Quantitative

How do I prepare?

Each individual who registers for the test is sent a CD-ROM containing test tutorials, practice questions with explanations, two actual computer-adaptive tests for the verbal and quantitative measures, and sample topics and essays for the analytical writing measure. There are a number of test-preparation books available at bookstores which also include practice tests and CD-ROMs, and can be helpful for test-takers.

How much does it cost?

The general test is $115 for individuals testing in the United States, U.S. Territories and Puerto Rico.

How do I sign up?

Information on registering for the test can be found at or at the MSU testing office.

How do I find the program I want?

It is helpful to know what type of program you are looking for, and if you have questions about this, make an appointment with your academic advisor to discuss your options. The U.S. News and World Report websitecontains an array of information regarding graduate programs all over the country. Rankings, scholarship searches, and articles about graduate school are also available there. You may also want to check to search for programs. Additionally, information on schools with Public Affairs and Administration programs is available at

One of the best ways to gather information is to talk to someone who has completed a program similar to the one in which you are interested. Ask about their experiences, from the search for the right program to the requirements involved.


Personal Statements

The personal statement is often the most dreaded part of the application process. What am I supposed to write about myself for that long? Some basic tips and guidelines can help you write a personal statement that is memorable, creative, and most importantly, reflective of who you are.

  • The purpose of a personal statement is to introduce yourself, explain why you want to go to graduate school, and why you feel this is the right school for you.
  • Tell the admissions committee who you are as if you were speaking
  • Select a theme or central idea, and STICK TO IT!
  • Use specific examples to back up your statements. For example, saying, “I am a team player” will not be worth much if you do not give an example of a time when you were a team player.
  • Pay attention to what the school has asked you to cover in your statement – writing one blanket statement and sending it to every school won’t work! Make it obvious to the school that you take this process seriously.
  • Be yourself, and be honest!
  • Include a résumé, so that your statement can be left to show communication skills and creativity – give information about you that is not included in any other part of the application.
  • Give your statement to others to proofread.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute!

Letters of Recommendation

  • At least one letter should come from someone able to assess your academic performance, e.g. your professors! This means that you need to cultivate relationships with faculty, attend office hours even if you don’t have questions, and get involved outside the classroom.
  • A good letter will cover your writing abilities, analytical skills, and intellectual development, both
  • individually and in comparison to your peers.
  • It may be helpful for you to provide a résumé, personal statement and even a transcript to the person writing a letter for you. This ensures that they have the information necessary to put together a thoughtful and informative letter.
  • Be sure to have faculty and professionals who know you well write these letters for you – generic statements are fairly obvious to admissions committees.

Take time when putting together your application materials. Personal statements, résumés, and letters of recommendation can be the deciding factors in your admission to a program!