Before You Apply

The decision to enter graduate studies is life-changing. It may lead you to move out of your home city, your country, and may take you around the world.

It will offer new mental horizons, challenge many of your assumptions and help you acquire a suite of new skills and talents, as well as build professional networks which will help you throughout your career.

Specialty (Professional and Executive) Programs

Graduate studies includes a large number of specialty professional programs. Completing a specialty graduate program can increase your earning potential, but you must consider a few questions.

  • Does the class schedule fit into your current work schedule?
  • Can you balance your work, family and educational commitments to successfully complete the program?
  • Can you get support from your employer to complete the program? (Many of our professional programs in business and education are delivered part-time and require you to be working full-time.) Support may include time off to attend classes or financial support toward tuition fees.

Research-based Programs

Research-based programs are traditional graduate studies programs, where you are mentored by a faculty member to perform research, teach and learn. Before you apply to a research-based graduate program, here are some questions you should ask yourself.

  • Why are you interested in graduate studies? 
  • Are you curious about some aspect of our world that may lead you to become the world's expert on that topic?
  • Will completing a graduate studies program bring you closer to becoming a leader in your field?
  • What do you bring to the graduate student–thesis advisor relationship?

Looking for your graduate program
When you're looking for a graduate program, one way to begin is from your subject area

  • What have you read in your classes lately that changed the way you see the world? Was there an article or a book or a book chapter that really made you want to learn more about a topic, a way of doing research, or question that you need to explore?
  • Who wrote the piece? Track down what else they have written and read that. Do you find that their conceptual frameworks, theoretical approaches and methodologies appeal to you? Do you like the way they think?
  • Would you like to work with them and study similar topics or other topics from a similar perspective? Google them and read their website or departmental website. Do you think there are others in their department that you would like to take classes from, or work with?
  • Contact your possible supervisor and start a conversation with them. Are they still researching in the area you are interested in? Are they taking new students? Are they interested in supervising topics you are interested in?

What do you bring?
The three traits which faculty members look for in their potential graduate students:

  • academic performance
  • research potential and evidence of ability to perform at the graduate level
  • leadership

The first two traits are relatively easy to document on your academic record, including transcripts, research papers and conference presentations.

The third trait, leadership, is highly valued as it is evidence that you have the drive and potential to become a leader in your field. It is also highly valued by the major award granting agencies, such as Vanier, Trudeau, CIHR, SSHRC and NSERC.

Some evidence of leadership skills may include:

  • significant artistic achievements or professional involvement in the arts; athletic achievements; independent entrepreneurial activities
  • volunteer experience related to your academic discipline: mentoring; teaching; involvement in student government; organizing conferences; involvement in your professional society
  • community involvement: volunteering for non-profit organizations; political activity; elected positions

Read through SFU's graduate student profiles, and you'll see that the students in our programs are not only academically excellent; they're also active contributors in shaping their communities.