Navigating the Graduate School Application Process

Posted on Dec 3rd, 2015 | Career, College

Now that you’ve decided to start searching for graduate programs and have possibly found a few you’d like to apply to, you may have noticed that the application process is a little daunting. Each university has specific expectations and requirements, so it’s important to follow the right steps when submitting your applications.

Remember these tips as you dive into this exciting process:

Know Who the Program Is Looking for
Be sure to research each universities program requirements before you submit an application. For example, Clemson University clearly states its graduate admission requirements like grade point average, experience and test scores. But requirements often range past the basic list of essentials. You’ll want to tailor your application materials to highlight some of the program’s main objectives, values and culture, along with how you feel the program is the right fit for you.

Set an Application Budget
Let’s face it, applying to graduate school is expensive. By setting a budget, you can compare application fees and the travel costs for visits and interviews. You can even start planning ahead for potential moving costs if you know that graduate school will take you out of your current area.

Seek Professional References
Weeks prior to submitting your application, seek out professional references to write you a positive recommendation. While your grandma and best friend would probably have a laundry list of nice things to say about you, it’s now time to take a look at key people you’ve worked closely with throughout your prior experiences. This could be an organization advisor, employer, professor or professional mentor. Provide them with the basic information on your program, a resume of your experience and a copy of your personal statement. Check out this article about how, when and who to ask for a recommendation letter. Just don’t forget to send a thank you note to your recommender because as much as they would love to talk about how great of employee or student you are, they’re probably taking time out of their day to do so.

Organize Your Materials
Each school will require a different set of materials for you to submit along with your application. Transcripts, resumes, test scores, recommendation letters and a personal statement are common with most programs. This application is going to contain all of the information that will either get you into the program, or not. Don’t let typos or silly mistakes affect your admission chances. Have someone else proofread each piece you submit to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors, and submit everything at once so you don’t run the risk of leaving anything out. Since most applications are now submitted online, you shouldn’t have to worry about any postage costs.

Ace Your Interview
Interviewing for graduate school is not like an interview for your average job. How you articulate your educational background and transferrable skills is essential. You’re choosing to take the next step with a new degree, so show passion for why you’ve chosen this university as an important step in your life. USA Today notes some additional interview-acing tips that include remembering that you’re always being interviewed. From the moment you step foot on campus, each student, faculty member and university employee you interact with could end up having a say on whether you’re in or out. Stay professional, calm and collected during your visit, and try to see if you can picture yourself succeeding at this university.

If you organize well and go in with a plan and confidence, applying to graduate school can become the first step toward achieving those life-long dreams.

Photo by Stewart Black via cc