Guide to Exploring Graduate School

Graduate school is highly broad, and each individual will have different goals and needs in their pre-graduate journey. We highly recommend you meet with an advisor in the OAA in order to craft a plan that meets your individual needs. You can follow the suggestions in this guide to begin exploring your academic interests and pursuing co-curricular opportunities that may ultimately lead to graduate studies.

While this guide assumes you plan to attend graduate school directly after graduation from Rice, many students opt not to attend immediately after completing their undergraduate degree. Taking some time off may provide time for reflection or clearer decision-making for your future, and it can allow you to gain valuable work or volunteer experience that some programs may view as an asset to your application. Graduate schools, especially professional programs, expect you to have clearly defined interests and relevant experiences leading to an area of specialization in some cases. Other programs are more practice-focused (such as an MBA) and will look to see if you have the skills necessary for the workforce after finishing the program; this may often be reflected in thesis versus non-thesis options. Thesis degrees are generally more research intensive, and non-thesis degrees may focus more on applicable skills to the workforce.

First Year Students

  • Plan a tentative course of study with your divisional advisor
  • Get to know your faculty
  • Think about a major
  • Join a club related to your academic interests; attend the Student Activities Involvement Fair
  • Identify volunteer programs of interest; visit the Center for Civic Leadership
  • Learn about education and skills needed for possible future career paths; visit the Center for Career Development
  • Identify summer programs and job opportunities; attend the Rice Collegiate Job Fair/Summer Opportunities Fair
  • Make arrangements to conduct research during the next academic year, particularly if you are considering a PhD

Second Year Students

  • Declare a major; plan the intellectual focus of your curriculum with your major advisor
  • Visit the Study Abroad Office to look into study abroad opportunities if that interests you; attend the Study Abroad Fair
  • Attend the Rice Career Expo; ask potential employers about desired education and skills for possible careers or internships
  • Continue activities related to your interests including clubs, volunteer work, and research
  • Apply for summer programs and job opportunities

Third Year Students - Fall

  • Join honorary societies and professional organizations in your field
  • Plan to attend a conference or symposium; consider presenting your research, if applicable
  • Identify the area of graduate study you would like to pursue and decide how long you want to attend graduate school
  • Identify graduate schools that have programs in your field of choice
  • Visit program websites and live/virtual open house events to learn more about programs that interest you
  • Speak with faculty members, advisors, and other mentors for advice about programs
  • Plan for cost of applying (application and standardized test fees)

Third Year Students - Spring

  • Hone your list of programs, taking into consideration curriculum, competitiveness, cost, etc.; determine admissions requirements and application deadlines
  • Begin preparing curriculum vitae (CV), personal statements, and writing samples; visit the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication
  • Register and begin preparation for standardized tests
  • Look for financial aid opportunities including assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships
  • Request letters of recommendation from faculty

Fourth Year Students - Fall

  • Continue progress toward completion of degree requirements
  • Check in with recommenders
  • Request official transcripts from the Office of the Registrar
  • Complete and submit applications in a timely manner
  • Research the schools and programs before your visit/interview
  • Plan time off and/or alternatives to graduate school in the event you are not admitted; visit the Center for Career Development

Fourth Year Students - Spring

  • Complete degree requirements
  • Submit financial aid applications
  • Visit/interview with programs
  • Update the Office of Academic Advising with your admissions status
  • Once making a firm commitment, notify other programs of your decision
  • Send thank you notes to recommenders


Monday - Friday

8:30 am - 12:00 pm

1:00 pm - 5:00 pm 


Phone | 713.348.4060

Email |


Office of Academic Advising MS-529

Rice University, Ley Student Center, Suite 132

6100 Main Street

Houston, TX 77005