The graduate school application process can be a big, stressful deal. It is important to try to stay positive and maintain calm. You can be reflective in the application process. The tips and advice that I am discussing based on interviews with professors, admissions specialists, graduate students, and my own personal experience with applying for graduate schools.
1. Allow Enough Time to Apply and Double Check.
Even for the strongest applicants, it takes a few months to research graduate programs, manage the letter of recommendations, writing your personal statement, and score high on admission exams like GRE. Do not wait till the last minute before pushing the send button. Check and recheck that your application is complete. Do not assume that every graduate school application is the same. Double check each application carefully and if in doubt, – or have questions, ask the admissions specialist. Also, check deadlines for scholarship and funding for graduate programs!
2. Be Clear About Your Motivations.
Understanding your motivation is an important step in building a plan for applying to your graduate program. Ask yourself: Why are you going? Do you want a full-time or part-time program? Masters vs. Ph.D? Graduate school programs will ask you why you are a good fit for their program, and you will not be able to answer that question effectively without knowing exactly what you want.
3. Focus on Content and Presentation.
An applicant may have the top GRE scores, a superb undergraduate GPA, and impressive letters of recommendations, but if the application contains obvious misspellings, grammatical mistakes, or punctuation errors, you might as well not send it in. It is important to maintain a professional demeanor in your writing to deliver a sign of maturity.
4. Follow the Procedures and Policies Outlined in the Program.
An applicant who follows the procedures and policies shows respect to the admissions department. For example, if there is a word limit for essay questions, follow it. If you are asked to provide two letters of recommendations, do not send more letters of recommendation than required.
5. Be Yourself.
Embellishing your application or making excuses for weaker parts of your resume will not help. Nobody is perfect, and perfect applicants look suspicious. It is important to present yourself in a genuine and honest way.
6. Solidify Strong Recommenders.
Be sure to develop relationship with your professors or a supervisor at your job. The key to seeking recommendations are people who will write a convincing and compelling case for the graduate program. A professor who cannot put a face to a name is not going to write rave about your skills in a recommendation letter. It is helpful to provide a resume to your professor to help them with crafting their response.
7. Show and Tell Why You Are A Good Fit.
Your resume reflects everything you did in your undergraduate and previous work career. Your application, personal statements, and essays need to show why you are the ideal candidate. Your essays can show, rather than tell with a rich story. The basis for your essay does not need to be work-or-school related examples. If you think about your accomplishments in your undergraduate career or work career, it will help lay the foundations for your personal statements.
8. Do Not Blow the Interview.
If a graduate program wants to meet with applicants, do your homework in advance. You need to be familiar with the faculty, the research areas they are doing, and how you fit in the program.
9. Have A Back-up Plan.
Back-up plans do not indicate a lack of confidence. It is a way to know what to do next, assuming you are denied admission. It is important to apply to other graduate programs to keep your options open! You can also always do grad school online. Here is some information on getting your MBA in strategy online.
Graduate school is an investment in your future and the admissions process can maximize the opportunity. Graduate school requires an active role by the student as does the application process. These tips helped me so much when I was applying and I feel they will help you in your application process.
Featured image via Jaeyoung Geoffrey Kang on Unsplash