Tips for Applying to Graduate School
February 20, 2019
So you’ve decided to apply to graduate school – congratulations! This is a big decision. It can be overwhelming, but it’s very doable. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind while you apply (or while you’re considering different programs).
- Think carefully about the kind of graduate program that is best for you. Will you do well as a self-starter, doing a low-residency or completely online program; or do you need the in-person accountability and structure of a traditional program? If you are working full-time or have a family, which kind of program would be doable at this time? Which program will be respected in your field and provide you with the education and tools you’ll need to succeed? Are they accredited? Not all programs are well-developed or accredited, and these are things you might want to think about as you narrow down your selections.
- Create a calendar for yourself. Once you have your potential programs selected, go through and find all of the deadlines: the deadlines for application for admission, the deadlines for recommendation letters, deadlines for test taking and score reports – every deadline that applies. Create a calendar with all of the deadlines clearly labeled and post it where you will see it regularly or where you work. This visual reminder will let you know when to order transcripts, email potential recommenders, and keep you on track for your personal statement and essay writing.
- Test scores aren’t everything. If you’re applying to a graduate program that requires a standardized test like the GMAT or GRE, it’s easy to stress about your score – whether it’s high enough, wondering whether to retake the test, and so forth. Remember, the test scores are a small part of your application. Your letters of recommendation (more on those later) and personal essay(s) are also important, because they provide glimpses into who you are as a person and student.
- Choose your recommenders wisely (and ask well in advance of the deadline; at least 6 weeks prior). It can be very tempting to choose a well-known professor in the field whose class you took, but who doesn’t really know you that well, but be forewarned that this could backfire. No matter how famous or accomplished the professor, if they don’t know you and can’t speak to your unique skills, it can sound like an uninspired form letter. A professor who knows you and your work well and who can write a glowing recommendation letter, will make your application much stronger than a generic, impersonal letter.
- Request all of your necessary transcripts at least a month before the deadline. Mail gets lost, administrative errors happen, and you don’t want to miss the deadline and then have to pay extra for overnight fees.
- It’s okay to make a contact at the program. If you have questions about the program, it’s a good idea to contact the department chair or the administrative head of the program. They’re often more than happy to email with you or chat over a phone call about the details of the program, classes and options offered, and more. It might also give you more insight into the general culture and climate of the program when you speak with someone there.
- Revise and update your resume or CV, making sure it presents the best you possible. (We can help!).
- Spend time on the personal statement and/or essays. Make sure you answer the questions or address what was requested of the statement/essay. Let the admissions committee know why you chose to apply there; what makes them the one program for you? What makes you unique and why should they choose you? What will you bring to the program, and how does the program fit into your larger goals? Leave yourself enough time to revise the statement/essays at least once; this is something you definitely don’t want to rush. (We can also assist you with this, through editing and consultations; contact us to learn more!). Check out our blog on application essays here.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread. Before hitting “send” on your application materials, go over everything – twice, even! Make sure all necessary documents are included in the proper format, run a spell check and go over everything to ensure that it’s correct, and verify that you’ve addressed everything that was asked.
If you’re applying to graduate school, Dissertation Editor can help! While we cannot (and will not) write your application essays or personal statements, we can assist you with revising and polishing your resume or CV, editing and providing feedback on your essays and statements, and providing consultations about the application process or any difficulties you might be having, writing-wise. Contact us today to learn more!