3 Tips for Thriving In Your First Semester of Graduate School

The acceptance letter arrived (congrats!), you’ve made your decision (woohoo!), and now it’s time to start graduate school. What’s next? Current students share strategies for success in your first semester of graduate school. 

  • Get Organized

    • Create a Weekly Schedule:
      • Each week, set aside time to create a schedule. We recommend scheduling time each day to work on school assignments – work in small increments as opposed to waiting for the night before the deadline. Planning ahead will help you accomplish what you need to do, but more importantly – it will allow you to engage more deeply with what you’re learning.
    • Prioritize Self-Care: 
      • Self-care during graduate school is essential. Burnout is real. With so many “to-do’s” vying for your attention, it’s important to spend time refueling in whatever way that looks for you – sleep, exercise, time with friends, etc. Build self-care activities into your weekly schedule, and shift your mindset to view those activities as holding as much importance as your tasks for school.
  • Connect with Faculty
    • Meet with Your Advisor
      • Go to office hours (we’ll say it again, a little louder – Go. To. Office. Hours.) Creating strong working relationships with your faculty will not only strengthen your experience in graduate school, but will open doors to opportunities for extended learning. 
    • Ask for Help:  
      • Struggling? We’ve all been there. Part of the role of faculty advisors is to help you navigate challenges that arise during your graduate coursework. Be honest about where you need support – and ask for help.
  • Get to Know Your Classmates 
    • Schedule Time to Connect with Classmates Socially: 
      • Your classmates are your biggest asset. They understand the unique challenge of balancing graduate school with all the other areas of life. They are also your future colleagues in the field (hello, networking!) Take time now to build relationships with your classmates. 
    • Seek a Peer Mentor: 
      • Many graduate programs offer students the chance to be matched with a student that is a semester or two ahead in the program. These relationships provide invaluable support in preparing for what’s to come. Don’t have an established mentor program? Ask your faculty advisor to recommend a potential peer mentor. 

Want to learn more about students’ experience in their first semester? Ask them! Connect with a School of Education Student Ambassador today.

USF School of Education


Think About Grad School During COVID 19

Perhaps, like me, these uncertain times have forced you to slow down and think about what is important. As part of the USF School of Education community I am grateful to be engaged in meaningful work that will make a lasting difference long after this pandemic. Our mission, to advance justice through education, is even more meaningful and urgently needed now.

You may be thinking about your path forward. If those plans include graduate school, know that you are not alone. Navigating the sometimes confusing process of applying for a graduate program can be daunting. Doing that in a time when you can’t visit campus, or attend an in-person event is even more challenging.

My team and I are here to support you. We are offering individual advising appointments, to guide you if you have questions or need advice about graduate studies. Even if you know you are not interested in the fields we can prepare you for (like teaching, counseling, leadership, education technology, and more) but you know you need to make a change – we are here for a conversation and to provide resources and guidance.

I hope to speak with you soon and until then, be well.

Amy Fogliani,
Director of Graduate Admission and Outreach
USF School of Education


Financing Graduate School

Depending on what type of graduate program you are considering, there are different financial aid opportunities available. At USF School of Education, we don’t have any fully funded programs, but we do have scholarship opportunities specific to each program, including graduate assistanships, volunteer discounts, and a lot of teacher education funding opportunities. Most of our programs allow students to continue to hold full-time employment, which is beneficial in that you can continue to work in some capacity and earn income. In addition, typically, domestic students are eligible for up to $20,500 in unsubsidized graduate student loans, and can also apply for the graduate plus loan to cover additional costs. As soon as you begin applying for graduate school, we recommend you file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at your earliest convenience.

If you have any questions about federal student aid, please contact us by email and we can review all of the opportunities available!

Amy Fogliani
Director, Admission, Communication, and Outreach
University of San Francisco School of Education
(415) 422-4213


5 Things to Consider When Writing a Statement of Intent

Statement of intent requirements vary greatly across graduate programs and schools, so students should always consult admission advisors and the program’s website. But following some general rules will strengthen any statement of intent.

  1. Spelling, Grammar, Correct University and Program Name – It Matters!
    Your beautifully written statement of intent could be tossed aside if there is a small typo. If you’re applying to multiple schools, please update the name of the university in each statement. Also, speak specifically about each program. It could be a deal-breaker if you don’t!
  2. Tell Your Story – For Real. Be honest, vulnerable. Be yourself.
  3. We really need to know about your background, so we can get an understanding of your story and why you’re interested in the graduate program. You don’t need to tell us everything, but most graduate programs would like to hear about your path to applying.
  4. Tell us why this field, why this university, why this program. Tie it to your story.
    This is key! Research universities and read up on their mission statements. Know the core messages and ideals of the school and the program to which you’re applying. If there are specific faculty who inspired you to apply, note them in your statement. Applying to five or more schools/programs? Make sure to adapt your statement to match the school’s values.
  5. No Dissertations. Keep it short.
    Faculty are drowning in papers, so they may not read anything more than five pages. At best, they’ll skip a good chunk of it. Many programs have minimum and maximum page requirements, so make sure to check with each school!
  6. Address the prompt provided by the program, but still do #2 and #3!
    Some programs may have a prompt you’ll be asked to address. If you don’t address it, your application may not move forward. It’s ideal to address the prompt while telling the larger story of yourself and your interest in the program.

Need more help? Call me at 415-422-4213 or email afogliani@usfca.edu to setup time to chat!

Amy Fogliani,
Director of Graduate Admission and Outreach
USF School of Education


Your Application is Your Case for Admission

Your application, and all your required application materials, make your case for admission. It’s like applying for a job: you need to convince us with every document that you’re the perfect candidate for the program you’re interested in; it’s also necessary to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of your program’s mission, and USF’s mission as a whole.

  • Resume – Place information most relevant toward your program at the top of your resume, whether it’s volunteer work or academic qualifications. You may need to tweak your professional resume so it fits a degree program.
  • Letters of recommendation should come from someone who knows you well and can speak to your readiness for a grad program. The person should come from a professional or academic setting, not a family member, therapist, or friend. Ask recommenders if they are willing, and if they feel they know you well enough, to write a good letter (remind them of your past term papers, work ethic etc.). If they seem unsure, ask someone else! And when you do get someone who agrees, let them know they’ll get a system-generated prompt from USF. It will arrive in their email after you submit your application.
  • Statement of Intent – This is one of the most important parts of the application. It’s the only way we can actually get to know you and your aspirations. Please do your research before starting this!
  • Transcripts – We review the application holistically. If your transcripts do not reflect your best work, let us know why. Then make the rest of your application as strong as possible.
  • Test Scores – Keep in mind that certain tests are pass/fail (CBEST and CSET). Passing is required for admission or to enroll (Insider’s Tip: As long as you pass, the university does not see a raw score; we only know that you passed!). Other tests (GRE/MAT for Doctoral Applicants Only) will be viewed as part of the total application. So do your best, but don’t stress.

Need more guidance? Feel free to contact me and we can setup time to speak!

Lisa Klope
Associate Director, Admission, Communication and Outreach
University of San Francisco School of Education
(415) 422-4212



Thinking about Grad School?

At the University of San Francisco School of Education Office of Admission and Outreach, we are here to help you navigate the sometimes confusing process of applying for a program. Reach out to us at any time with questions, or for advice – that is what we are here for and what we like most about our roles!

Looking forward to chatting soon!

Amy Fogliani,
Director of Graduate Admission and Outreach
USF School of Education