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Graduate School

If you want to gain the competitive edge you need in today’s job market, challenge yourself and contribute meaningfully to your field, this website can help you find the perfect program, financial information and other resources needed to obtain that advanced degree.

Graduate School Resources

Graduate School Guide

A comprehensive guide to help lead you through every step of the grad school process.

Considering Attending Graduate School?

Earning a graduate degree can help you expand or change your career, increase your income, become a respected expert in your field, pursue your love for learning, learn in a challenging and stimulating environment and meet and interact with like-minded individuals. However, it requires a tremendous amount work and focus, especially if your program requires a practicum and/or internship and costs a great deal of money. Therefore, you should weigh these factors when deciding whether to attend graduate school:

  • Cost - Can you receive financial aid or financial assistance from your family or employer?
  • Potential Loss of Income While Attending School Full-time - Will you attend school part-time while working, or can you afford to not work, knowing it may increase your income in the future?
  • Prolonged Hard Work & Mental Effort - Are you ready to take on the intense but rewarding work that comes with a graduate education?
  • Possible Relocation - Are you willing to move for a better program or greater success?
  • School Effects on Family and Relationships - Are you willing to give up your social life for a few semesters?

If you’re not sure whether to pursue a graduate degree, talk to other individuals such as:

  • People who have the job and degree that interests you
  • Graduate students at various stages of their education in that field of study
  • Professors who teach in that field of study
Types of Programs

Master of Arts

Most of the programs offered at Fresno Pacific University are master of arts (M.A.) programs. M.A. degrees can take one to four years to complete. They are more focused on discussion and seminars and designed for intellectual growth. Many M.A. programs require internships and may require taking a qualifying exam after degree completion.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is a professional program that focuses on employment or advancement within the business field and requires international fieldwork. FPU M.A. and MBA programs are organized into three schools: Business; Education; and Humanities, Religion & Social Sciences.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) programs are master of science (M.S.) programs, which are oriented more toward laboratory, research and experimental study. They require internships and qualifying exams after degree completion for licensing purposes. These programs are based in th FPU School of Natural Sciences.

Prepare for Graduate School

Once you have made the decision that graduate school is the right step for you, begin preparing early to increase your chances for acceptance. Listed below is a checklist to help guide you on your journey.

  • Research schools and programs of study.
  • Research financial aid (public & private sources). This should also include the schools you are considering.
  • If you are currently employed, check with your Employee Benefits department to see if they offer tuition assistance.
  • Talk to students and faculty at the schools you are interested in attending.
  • Check application deadline dates.
  • Contact the Financial Aid Office at the school you want to attend (check deadlines, some are far in advance). Get Financial Aid Services forms (if needed).
  • Check Bulletin for Graduate test dates/application (and TOEFL-foreign language students).
  • Contact test preparation services, courses/dates.
  • Complete the Application and Financial Aid forms.
  • Include the application fee
  • Prepare a statement of financial resources (if necessary) or an affidavit of financial support if you are a foreign student.
  • Begin work on your essays. Schedule an interview (if applicable).
  • Prepare a summary of work experience (if applicable).
  • Send for transcripts from your undergraduate institution.
  • Make calls to past and present employers, faculty and other people familiar with your skills and abilities for letters of reference or recommendation.

Our career counselors are ready to help and the FPU Career Development Center is an excellent place to begin collecting information.

Timeline for Applying to Grad School

Since there are so many things to do and keep track of when applying to grad school, you may want to use this schedule to help stay organized.

Research Graduate Programs

Research is vital at the early stages of your graduate school search. However, you may be wondering how exactly to conduct this research. Here are a few listings to help you quickly and effectively get started.

  • College Source – a database of 108,231 digital college catalogs, institution profiles, transcript keys and other critical resources
  • FPU Graduate Programs – provides a list of graduate programs offered at FPU
  • – offers resources to help you at every stage of your graduate school search including applications, testing and more
  • – allows you to find schools by metropolitan area and learn about each city
  • Online and Distance Programs – allows you to learn wherever you are
  • Peterson’s – includes over 50,000 accredited schools and programs, as well as more than 5,000 scholarships to help you find the school, program or scholarship that’s right for you
  • Study Abroad – lists programs and schools to help students gain access to international experiences
  • Types of Fellowships for Graduate School – lists available grad-school fellowships

Feel free to visit FPU’s Career Development and Experimental Library in the Student Life Office, Room 129 in the Steinert Campus Center, for more graduate school resources!

Application Process

After researching the grad schools you wish to attend, your application will probably be the most time consuming and challenging part of the process because it is contains several components:

  • Transcripts are easy because all you need to do is request them from your former schools and send them to the schools for which you are applying.
  • Test Scores (GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MSAT, etc.) are more time consuming and difficult as you need to study first before taking the tests.
  • Essays. You should leave yourself enough time to answer the questions thoughtfully and honestly while writing your essay and making sure to proofread it thoroughly.
  • Recommendations. Approach co-workers, former professors, etc., early to give them enough time to write good recommendations. Make sure the people you pick agree to write the letter and are enthusiastic to help you. Provide them with your resume or a list of your accomplishments to help them formulate your recommendation letter and incorporate those items.

Visiting Grad Schools

Visit the schools you are considering to talk with people there and get a better feel and understanding of the school. It also provides the opportunity to make a positive first impression on the faculty with your research interests and enthusiasm. Try to determine if these are people you want to work with for the next couple of years or so. Visiting the school also allows you to visit the area and check out the neighborhood, where you can go shopping, rental prices, etc.

Choosing a Grad School

The primary factors on deciding which school to attend if you have been accepted to more than one grad school is the quality of the program and faculty, the costs and financial aid provided. Do some bargaining—it can’t hurt.

Entrance Examinations

Most standardized graduate-school tests are designed to identify potential success or capacities for success. Your score is critical to your application, but it is not the only element. Undergraduate transcripts, recommendation letters, and admissions essays are other considerations.

Which Exam is Right for You?

Test Preparation Resources

You can prepare for these and other tests through varying websites. Here is some information if you are interested.

  • LSAT Exam Information—provides useful information about the process to help you get to the test center so you CRUSH the LSAT.
  • Top Law School Admissions—Provides free access to LSAT medians, GPA requirements, as well as acceptance rates at all the top colleges in the US according to 2017 rankings.
  • GRE Information: How to Prepare—discusses the GRE exam sections and how to prepare for them.
  • GMAT Information—provides information about the GMAT process to help you obtain an excellent score.
  • MCAT Preparation & Resources—offers information and tips on how to prepare for the MCAT.
  • MCAT Test Prep Nerds—lists the best MCAT test prep books, prep courses and flash cards; free MCAT study guides and practice tests; and test dates and study schedules
  • MCAT Best Way to Study—provides the best way to study the MCAT
  • Chegg Test Prep—provides test preparation, courses, books, practice and tutoring for GRE, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT and more!
Rules for Writing Your Graduate School Personal Statement
  1. Write using an active, confident tone and in present tense.
  2. Write clear and concise sentences.
  3. Write a clear introduction, body and conclusion.
  4. Write academically without slang, contractions, clichés or other informal types of writing.
  5. Write per the tone set by the audience and writing prompt.
  6. Use the same tense throughout or make distinct tense changes.
  7. Make sure paragraphs have a topic sentence, explanatory or supportive sentences and provide analysis.
  8. Share yourself with confidence and precision.
  9. The reader has no idea who you are. Write so it becomes evident to him or her.
  10. Use correct grammar and spelling.

Be very intentional when constructing your personal statement. Begin working on it early so you have time to make several drafts. Be mindful of common errors and always keep your audience in mind. Other helpful links are listed below.

Letters of Recommendation

When to Make Your Requests

September—and give three weeks for them to respond.

Who to Ask

  1. Faculty members who can comment specifically on who you are as a person and student and have a passion for your future.
  2. A professor who has taught graduate classes, and can compare your potential to the abilities of previous grad students.
  3. An internship supervisor - especially one related to the graduate field you wish to pursue.

How to Ask

  1. Email your professors and request a meeting to discuss your grad school plans.
  2. Ask in a tactful but direct way, "Professor, could you write a strong recommendation letter for grad school?"
  3. Try to determine from their response if they will give you lukewarm or enthusiastic support.

What Information to Supply

  1. Resume
  2. Transcript copy
  3. Statement of Purpose
  4. Any large work you did in that class
  5. Cover sheet highlighting:
    • Which courses you took from the faculty member and when
    • The grades you received in each class
    • Your overall GPA
    • Your GPA in your major field?
    • Did you take a minor, and if so, how will it enhance your graduate studies?
    • A list of things you want the faculty member to be sure to address
  6. A labeled file for each graduate school to which you will be applying, including:
    • The graduate school’s form for the faculty to evaluate your potential for success in grad school. Fill out the portion that pertains to you.
    • Where they are to send the letter (cite individual names, titles, if you can)
    • The deadline date
    • A stamped, addressed envelope for each grad school to which you are applying.
  7. Your telephone number and email address, in case the faculty member needs further information.
  8. A bulleted list of the specific things you'd like each letter writer to address
    • Request each writer write something different that gives the breadth of who you are.
    • Try to "aim" your letter writers specifically toward the kind of graduate program you're seeking.
  9. Remind them, gently, about one week before your deadline. Remind them again as the deadline closes in. Be assertive in a friendly way until you know their letter is in the mail.

Recommendation request letter sample

What To Do Next

Send each a Thank You note ("I know how busy you are, and that your time is valuable, so I really appreciate your help...," etc.). This is a thoughtful gesture. This is also smart politics. You may need another such letter or assistance from the same reference later.

Financing Graduate School

How do I apply for aid?

Don’t Pay Money to Complete the FAFSA! The FAFSA is a free application. Fill it out at Other sites may charge you.

What other types of financial aid can I receive?

Aid from Other Federal Agencies

To find out about funding from agencies other than ED, visit

State Aid

Find state grant agency contact information at

School Aid

To find out what aid your school offers, contact its financial aid office.


Check out the links below for more information. If you plan to attend FPU for your graduate studies, there are several scholarships available at FPU Scholarships. Click FPU Private Scholarships to learn more about private scholarships.

Key Points to consider when taking out a student loan

  1. Finance your education with free money first (scholarships and grants), then earned money (work-study) and, finally, borrowed money (federal student loans). Keep in mind that you don’t have to accept the full loan amount offered. You may request and borrow a lower amount.
  2. Is it a federal loan or a private student loan? Go to to learn more.
  3. What are the terms and conditions of the loan? Understand what you’re signing up for. Understand the terms of your loan and keep copies of your loan documents.
  4. How will the amount you borrow in student loans affect your future finances, and how much can you afford to repay? Learn more at Use the financial aid awareness counseling tool at 
  5. Have you heard about Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)? Learn about loan forgiveness programs at

For more information, please contact FPU’s Financial Services Office at 559-453-2041,, or visit their page.

Preparing a Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Curriculum Vitaes (CVs) are used almost exclusively for those in academics and with advanced degrees or in countries outside the United States. Occasionally, an admissions committee may require a CV; however, this is very rare. Resumes should be used for all other purposes in the United States. Please see our resume page for more information regarding resumes.

Curriculum vitae means, literally, “the course of your life.” The vitae or CV denotes a scholarly demeanor, summarizes your academic/employment history and accomplishments and communicates familiarity with the workings of academia in a structured form. You will need to adapt this sample to your individual needs.

Practical and research experiences can be listed together or separately, depending on what will strengthen your CV, but in either case indicate position title, relevant dates, number of hours, duties performed and the supervisor. Specific research competencies might lead you to add an extra section to the CV and list these. Omit this optional section if you have none or only one; in the latter case, describe the special qualification in your personal statement. Similarly, only include a “Presentations” or “Publications” section if you have conducted a presentation or developed a poster. Otherwise, omit it. The names of references should be listed only after you have obtained their permission to do so. Never list a reference on a CV or application form unless you have secured that person’s agreement to write a letter in support of your application.

The CV, like personal statements, should be printed on standard-sized, white or cream stock. Purchase good quality bond paper for these documents, Below is a sample CV.

Sample CV

Source: Excerpts from (2016). Norcross, John C. and Sayette, Michael A. Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology. The Guilford Press: New York, NY.

Mastering the Graduate School Admissions Interview

Common Interview Questions to Anticipate

  • What are your career plans?
  • What qualifications do you have that will make you successful?
  • What attracts you to our program?
  • Will you tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?
  • What are your plans and goals?
  • What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you bring into the program?
  • What are your special attributes?
  • What are your research interests?
  • Tell me about you research project/honors thesis.
  • Which of our faculty members do you think you would work with?
  • Where else have you applied or interviewed?
  • Can you tell me about a recent client or clinical encounter?
  • How did you conceptualize or treat your last client? (For clinical psychology majors. Adjust to fit your own major).
  • What are your hobbies, avocations, favorite books and interests?

Source: (2016). Norcross, John C. and Sayette, Michael A. Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology. The Guilford Press: New York, NY.

Interview Questions a Student Might Ask

  • What characteristics are specific to this program and distinguish it from competitors?
  • Where are recent alumni employed? What do most students do after graduation?
  • What types of financial aid are offered and what criteria are used for choosing recipients?
  • Are there any scholarships or fellowships available? How do I apply?
  • Do most students publish an article or present a paper before graduation?
  • What planned practical experiences are included in the program (e.g., internships)? Ask for examples of internship placements.
  • Does the department prefer applicants immediately out of undergraduate programs or do they prefer applicants with work experience? If they prefer or require experience, what kind of experience are they looking for?
  • How are mentoring and advising relationships established? Are advisors assigned or chosen?
  • How long do most students take to graduate? How many years of coursework?
  • Do most students live near campus?
  • What is it like to live in this area as a graduate student (ask other students)?