Graduate School Applications: How to Prepare

Applying to graduate school is a big step, and it requires careful time and attention. It can be stressful and confusing at times, but if you follow all of the steps and prepare for what is required, it will be a lot easier. Follow these steps to make the application process as stressless as possible:

  1. 1. Research schools based on location and disciplines. Once you find programs in the area you want, research each program to find out exactly what research is being done, what you will be doing, and what the application requirements are. You do not want to just apply to any program that has your discipline, because the school and program itself might not be a good fit for you. To find graduate programs that fit your needs, click here.
  2. Reach out to grad school faculty and ask questions. This will show them that you are serious about the program and that you take initiative. It will also facilitate a relationship with graduate school faculty, who are usually the ones to make admissions decisions.
  3. Prepare for the standardized test you will need to take (Graduate Record Exam-General Test, Graduate Record Exam- Subject Test, Miller Analogies Test, Graduate Management Admission Test) and register for the test. Each program requires (if any) different tests, so make sure you prepare for any and all that are needed.  
  4. Request letters of recommendation from undergrad professors, faculty, and internship/work supervisors. Professionals who can speak about your abilities, growth, passion, strengths, and about you as a professional overall are the best resources for recommendation letters. Do not include personal references unless specifically requested.
  5. Draft your essay/personal statement. Read it a few times, have others read it, and edit, edit, EDIT! Make sure it is perfect, because this is the first snapshot that grad school admissions will have of you.
  6. File your application by the admissions deadline. Make sure you know when any and all deadlines are.

Okay so now you know step by step what to do, but what about all of the in betweens? Here are a few tips to help you figure out how to do everything:

  • Breathe and relax. Getting overwhelmed can cause you to make careless mistakes. Take each step one day at a time if necessary.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute, because then you will be stressed and pressed for time, and you will be rushing to get it all done.
  • Make sure you follow all of the application directions. Failure to follow directions could cause faculty to question your ability to follow policies and procedures.
  • Make sure everything is spelled correctly and punctuated right. Poor spelling can have a negative impact on your application, no matter how high your GPA or tests scores are.
  • Be clear about your goals and desires, your strengths and areas for growth, and your professional experiences and abilities. This shows that you have personal insight, know where you stand as a professional, and that you are determined to reach your goals.
  • Communicate those goals/strengths/etc to those writing recommendation letters- these are important topics that they can touch upon and build up for you.
  • Have a backup plan, just in case you do not get accepted to your top choice program(s).

 

Applying for and going to graduate school can be stressful, but it pays off in the end and is definitely worth it! If you are considering furthering your education or for more information about the graduate school application process, visit the UMF Graduate School Resources site.

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