8 Essential Books to Help Prepare You for Graduate School

Preparing for graduate school can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We've compiled some great books to help you with your planning.

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by Kim-Ling Sun

Updated September 12, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
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8 Essential Books to Help Prepare You for Graduate School
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If you're thinking of taking a step up the ladder in your profession, you might be considering getting an advanced degree in your field.

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Ready to start your journey?

Enrolling in grad school is a decision you shouldn't take lightly. There are many things to consider, including whether to enroll in an online graduate program or a campus-based one.

The admissions process, much like undergraduate admissions, generally requires good scores on an admissions exam, a solid GPA, and letters of recommendation.

Here are some great books to help you prepare for the journey, including what to expect in grad school, how to choose a graduate program, and what the application process looks like. Some books also cover how to be successful during your academic program.

1. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing

By Paul J. Silvia


In this popular guidebook, Paul J. Silvia prepares you for the significant amount of writing required in graduate school.

"How to Write a Lot" (2018) addresses how to overcome bad habits and writer's block. You'll also learn practical strategies to help you become a stronger writer and researcher.

2. A Field Guide to Grad School: Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum

By Jessica McCrory Calarco


This book is a great resource for the academic soft skills most programs expect grad students to have. "A Field Guide to Grad School" (2020) covers basic academic skills, like writing and research.

More importantly, the book covers how to apply to a program, select an advisor, and benefit from conferences. It also addresses how to network and navigate the job market. The book even gives tips for balancing work, life, and grad school.

3. Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way Into the Graduate School of Your Choice

By Donald Asher


The updated "Graduate Admissions Essays" (2012) is the quintessential guide for crafting successful essays for scholarships and graduate school programs.

Whether you are seeking to earn a master's, MBA, or JD degree, or are seeking funding to become a Fulbright Scholar, this book contains 50 sample essays with detailed strategies you can apply to your writing.

4. Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning a Master's or Ph.D.

By Robert L. Peters


"Getting What You Came For" (1997) begins by helping you decide whether graduate school is right for you and, if so, whether you should pursue a master's or Ph.D. Every chapter gives tips on the application process and how to deal with politics in academia.

This classic guide has been revised and reprinted with great resources and information carefully curated from academic counselors, graduate students, and professors.

5. The Dissertation Warrior: The Ultimate Guide to Being the Kind of Person Who Finishes a Doctoral Dissertation or Thesis

By Guy E. White


Guy White's "The Dissertation Warrior" (2017) helps students think through the completion of their dissertation. This book does not contain quick and easy tips for completing a dissertation; rather, it provides skills you can develop to grow your writing craft in the long term.

White guides you through one of the most challenging parts of the dissertation — the introduction — and other pitfalls that often derail dissertations.

6. The Women's Guide to Surviving Graduate School

By Barbara Rittner and Patricia Trudeau


This 1997 book provides practical advice for women seeking to attend graduate programs in the United States and Canada.

"The Women's Guide to Surviving Graduate School" gives great tips on schools who focus on recruiting women. It also discusses how gender factors into the admissions process.

7. Playing the Game: The Streetsmart Guide to Graduate School

By Frederick Frank and Karl Stein


Frank and Stein, both having graduated from famous graduate schools, give readers indispensable advice in "Playing the Game" (2004). Written with a bit of sass, the advice is not what you would find in your typical grad school guide.

This book gets down to the basics and is divided into three parts: getting in, getting through, and getting out of graduate school. The authors break down the complex process into everyday language and pair it with personal, funny anecdotes.

8. Even a Geek Can Speak

By Joey Asher


"Even a Geek Can Speak" (2006) explains how, with our dependence on the digital world, many people have lost the art of public speaking. Author Joey Asher teaches the average nerd how to convey complex ideas in a way that successfully connects with their audience.

Even though it's not specifically designed for graduate students, this book can help you refine your presentation skills, which are needed in most advanced fields.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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