Graduate programs

Our alumnae/i have gone on to graduate programs in diverse fields like environmental policy, midwifery, public administration, law, counselling, communications, education, gender and social policy, digital media, museum studies, social work and many others. Over 95 per cent of our graduates who choose to pursue further education are accepted to their first choice of university and program, usually with scholarships or other financial awards.

While UVic does not currently offer an MA or PhD program in gender studies, the department is working to establish a master's program. A graduate program in gender studies at UVic may occasionally be available by special arrangement or as an interdisciplinary program.

I gained excellent critical thinking and research skills that were extremely useful in grad school [and] my honours paper prepared me for my MA thesis and PhD dissertation. I was encouraged to pursue questions that I found fascinating and that I continue to work on today.
Survey response from gender studies alum

Thinking about graduate programs in gender studies but don't know where to start?

Information on programs

Things to consider

  • Should I go right away or take some time off?
  • Gender studies program or other discipline? Joint programs? Many paths to the same destination.
  • Stay at UVic or go elsewhere?
  • Reputation of school.
  • Based on your interests, is there a faculty member there for you to work with?
  • Thesis- or course-based MA?
  • 1 yr or 2 yr MA?
  • In person or online?
  • How am I going to pay for it? Cost of living, etc. - see below.

Letters of Recommendation

Even if your professors know you very well, they need to be able to talk about your work and other achievements in precise terms. Provide the items on this list and they'll be able to do so.

  1. The forms or instructions for the required letter - please highlight or make clear the deadlines
  2. The complete address - with postal codes, street addresses, etc., as well as the person or committee to be addressed in each application. (Note that this is also needed even if the letter is being sent via internet).
  3. The address for each application
  4. The precise program you are applying for and the department in which it is lodged
  5. A resumé of experience that the professor should be aware of in composing a letter about your work
  6. The course(s) you took with the professor, the year(s) you took it/them in, and the grade(s) received
  7. A short description of the work you did for the course(s) that should be discussed in the letter
  8. Any pertinent information that the professor should know which could be used in the letter
  9. Your UVic student number and/or an unofficial transcript
  10. A copy of your self-description, personal statement, or your program proposal (if any) that you are submitting to the program (so that the professor can speak to that if useful)
  11. An addressed, stamped envelope for each of the letters
  12. And, most importantly, enough time! Many professors are writing letters for multiple students with similar deadlines. You should plan on submitting these materials several weeks before your application deadlines. Consult with each of your letter writers about how much lead time they require given all their individual schedules.

Your letter of intent or statement of purpose

When you apply to graduate school you often need to hand in some sort of written statement as a part of the application. The terminology differs, but may include "statement of purpose," "personal statement," "letter of intent," "personal narrative," etc. Some statements require rather specific information - for example, the applicant's intended area of study within a graduate field. Others suggest subjects which should be addressed specifically. Still others are quite unstructured, leaving the applicant free to address a wide range of matters. Usually this statement is no more than two pages, but some schools may require responses to a series of six or more questions, ranging from 250 to 750 words each. The importance of the statement varies from school to school and from field to field.

Determine your purpose in writing the statement

Usually the purpose is to persuade the admissions committee that you are an applicant who should be chosen: to show that you have the ability and motivation to succeed in your field, or to demonstrate to the committee that, on the basis of your experience, you are the kind of candidate who will do well in the field. Whatever its purpose, the content must be presented in a manner that will give coherence to the whole statement.

Determine the content of your statement

Be sure to answer any questions fully. Analyze the questions or guidance statements for the essay completely and answer all parts. Usually graduate and professional schools are interested in the following matters, although the form of the question(s) and the responses may vary:

  1. Your purpose in graduate study. This means you must have thought this through before you try to answer the question.
  2. The area of study in which you wish to specialize. This requires that you know the field well enough to make a decision and are able to state your preferences using the language of the field.
  3. Your intended future use of your graduate study. This will include your career goals and plans for the future.
  4. Your special preparation and fitness for study in the field. This is the opportunity to correlate your academic background with your extracurricular experience to show how they unite to make you a special candidate.
  5. Any problems or inconsistencies in your records or scores, such as a bad semester. Be sure to explain in a positive manner and justify the explanation. Since this is a rebuttal argument, it should be followed by a positive statement of your abilities. In some instances, it may be more appropriate to provide this information outside of the personal statement.
  6. Any special conditions that are not revealed elsewhere in the application, such as a significant (35 hour per week) workload outside of school. This, too, should be followed with a positive statement about yourself and your future.
  7. You may be asked, "Why do you wish to attend this school?" This requires that you have done your research about the school, and know what its special appeal is to you. Visit the website of the school and department. Read the Dean's message, the departmental vision statement (if there is one), check the specialty of the faculty to determine that you are a good fit. Read the school's Strategic Plan.
  8. Above all, this statement should contain information about you as a person. They know nothing about you unless you tell them. You are the subject of the statement.

Determine your approach to and style of the statement

There is no such thing as "the perfect way to write a statement." There is only the one that is best for and fitting for you. These are some things the statement should do:

  1. It should be objective, yet self-revelatory. Write directly and in a straightforward manner that tells about your experience and what it means to you. Do not use "academese." This is not a research paper for a professor.
  2. It should form conclusions that explain the value and meaning of your experience, such as what you learned about yourself and your field, your future goals, and your career plans. Draw your conclusions from the evidence your life provides.
  3. It should be specific. Document your conclusions with specific instances, or draw your conclusions as the result of individual experience. See below a list of general words and phrases to avoid using without explanation.
  4. It should be an example of careful persuasive writing. Career Centre Counsellors can help you determine if this is so by reviewing your draft statement.
  5. It should get to the point early on and catch the attention of the reader.
  6. It often should be limited in length, no more than two pages or less. In some instances it may be longer, depending on the school's instructions.

There are some things the statement should not be:

  1. Avoid the "what I did with my life" approach.
  2. Avoid the "I've always wanted to be" approach.
  3. Avoid a catalogue of achievements. This is only a list of what you have done, and tells nothing about you as a person. Normally, the statement is far more than a resume.
  4. Avoid lecturing the reader. For example, you should not write a statement such as "Communication skills are important in this field." Any graduate admissions committee member knows that and is not trying to learn about the field from the applicant. Some statements do ask applicants about their understanding of the field.

How am I going to pay for graduate school?

1. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grants - due December 1st, but start early!: these are competitive grants that you may apply for at the Master's level, and even before you have applied to graduate school.  Gender studies students have been successful in receiving these grants in recent years. Copies of successful WS SSHRC Program of Study Statements are available in the WS main office.

2. Other grants and graduate awards: listed on the UVic Faculty of Graduate Studies site

3. Student Loans and Financial Aid

4. Provincial scholarships and awards: check with the financial aid officer and the graduate studies faculty for each university to which you are applying.

5. Your potential graduate program/department: always consult with the program to which you are applying. Many have research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and fellowships. Please note that often this will mean an earlier application deadline for those who are applying for funding than for those who are not.

6. The bottom line: no matter how much you want to go to grad school, it is not worth going into deep debt.  Think twice about attending a school that does not offer you any funding.