Top Ten Tips for Applying to Graduate School

Top Ten Tips for Applying to Graduate School

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In the spirit of the application season that’s underway, I have prepared a list of ten tips to help you through this process!  Take a look!

1. Start early.

This first tip is mostly geared to those who would like to attend graduate school in the future but are not sure when.  If you are even remotely interested, you are better off starting to look into different programs sooner rather than later.  It is a time for you to determine which programs you feel most suit your educational needs.  Also, by starting early, you may even get a chance to visit some campuses.

2. Visit the campus.

Since graduate school is such a huge commitment, it’s a good idea to visit the campuses at least once.  This not only allows you an opportunity to explore the resources that the department has, but it also gives you a chance to learn more about the city.  This is especially important when considering the fact that you could be spending an extended period of time in the area.  You can explore not only what the campus has to offer but what the surrounding area has to offer, as well.

3. Talk to the faculty.

Get the faculty’s perspective on the program you are interested in applying to.  After all, who would know more about the coursework and curriculum of the department than the faculty that assist in the teachings of said field?

4. Get the student perspective.

It is always helpful, if at all possible, to get in touch with a student.  Understanding why a current student chose the program and how that student feels about the program is extremely helpful.  A student perspective may also help you to understand if you can see yourself at that school.

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5. Remember you have a say, too.

The application process is not just about applying to schools that have the program you are looking for. It’s also about applying to schools that you feel embody the characteristics you are looking for in a graduate program.  Graduate school is such a large commitment that you want to make sure you end up at a school with philosophies that match and compliment yours when it comes to your area of studies.

6. Do the research.

Make sure that what you are applying for is exactly what you want to do.  Grad school is not only a huge financial investment but also a mental & emotional investment.  If you are not sure that it is something that you have a passion for, explore the profession more to see how you truly feel about it.  Perhaps read some literature or recent research that has been written about the field.

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7. Attend a relevant workshop.

Seriously, this is something that I would have liked to have done prior to applying. Attending a workshop in the field of study that you’re considering apply to allows you to become familiar with the different concepts and ideas that are circulating in the profession today.  There is truly nothing more powerful than experiencing this profession for yourself firsthand and understanding the benefits it has to offer.

8. Start your personal statement sooner rather than later.

This is definitely not something you want to leave for the last minute, because it is such a huge part of how application reviewers learn who you are and what kind of student you’d be.  With your personal statement (aka self-assessment essay), you introduce yourself and explain why you would make an excellent candidate for the program. Getting a head-start on the personal statement gives you optimal time to perfect it prior to the application deadline.

9. Try not to leave everything until the last minute.

From experience, I can honestly say this is easier said than done, especially when trying to balance work, school, or both at the same time.  To this, I would just say try not to leave everything to the last possible second.  Try to make a schedule of things you will work on, so that you don’t end up having to work on everything at once.  Choose specific weeks to focus on specific aspects of the application.

10. Have someone critique your application.

In the midst of working on the application, you may find that you forget to add certain important details.  It always helps to allow someone whose opinion you value to look over your application.  Ask them if they feel that you have covered all of your bases.