6 Tips Applying to Grad School for a Different Major

Changing Your Course of Study

Can you switch fields of study?
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Many students find that their career would benefit from additional studies that differ from their bachelor's degrees. They may learn that their interests lie in a different field than their major or that their current field has grown and new avenues for study have emerged since their earlier years in academia.

Demonstrate Your Capabilities

While your graduate options are not limited by your college major, you still, however, have to work hard to demonstrate that you're a good candidate for graduate programs in your newly chosen field. Admittance to graduate school is all about how well you match the program. If you can demonstrate that you have the experiences and competencies to succeed, that may help your chances of getting accepted. Focus on the skills and life experiences that led you to switch your studies.

Seek Related Experience

Most graduate programs in biology will not accept a student without undergraduate science coursework. This is true of most areas of graduate study. To demonstrate competence you might consider engaging in internships or additional coursework. If, for example, your bachelor's degree is in psychology and you wish to apply to a master's program in biology, take some science courses can demonstrate that you have a solid science background. Check your local community college or look into online courses.

Take the Subject GRE

If you're switching fields of study, it's in your best interest to take the Subject GRE, even though it's likely not required. A solid score on this exam illustrates your mastery of the subject matter, which can show your ability to succeed in the new field.

Get Certified

While a certificate is not the same as a graduate degree, many programs are rigorous and can be a great precursor to your next degree. Certifications are often affordable and can be done in a short period of time, and they can prove your mastery of the material. Some certificate programs offer courses similar to those you'd find in graduate school and can prepare you for the rigorous studies ahead.

Use Your Admissions Essay to Demonstrate Your Fit

Your graduate school admissions essay is your opportunity to speak to the graduate committee. Use this essay to show how your education and experiences specifically align with the graduate program. Some fields, like law, relate to many courses of study.

Discuss your interest in the field and how your experiences have prepared you to succeed in the field. Draw attention to courses you've taken or experiences that illustrate your interest or competence in the area to which you aspire. For example, as a psychology major who wishes to study biology, emphasize the aspects of your education that overlap with biology, such as the emphasis on understanding the brain as an influence on behavior, as well courses in methodology and statistics, and your research experience.

Explain why you're making a transition from one field to another, why you have the background to do so, why you'll be a good graduate student, as well as your career goals. Ultimately graduate school admissions committees want to see evidence of your interest, knowledge, and competence. They want to know if you have the ability to fulfill degree requirements and if you're a good risk. Keep the admissions committee's perspective in mind, and you'll have an advantage in the admissions process despite having the "wrong" undergraduate major.