Completing the application takes persistence, attention to detail, and compiling the appropriate documents. Review the resources below to get a head start on your competition.
How many schools should I apply to?
Have a range of choices: If you feel you have excellent prospects consider applying to fewer schools with more assurances of being accepted. If you feel you have average to limited prospects you may want to apply to a larger number. Some will be "safety-nets" which you are confident you will be accepted to and others will be ones you hope will accept you.
Costs in addition to application fees to consider:
- Academic transcript request and financial aid fees,
- Fees associated with the processing of financial aid forms,
- Fees required for GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT exams and for test reports, and photocopying expenses, and
- Interview and campus visitation costs.
Regardless of the number, be sure to apply to schools which complement your academic background, fit your graduate school needs, and will aid you in reaching your career goals.
Completing the Application - Important tips:
- Review application materials and make note of deadlines.
- Have supplemental material such as transcripts, resume, and test scores on hand.
- Read the application thoroughly before entering information and follow the instructions carefully.
- Make copies of all correspondence. Keep notes on all phone calls including the name of the person spoken to.
- Don't "mass produce" applications. Although some information is repetitive from school to school, applications vary. Address the unique aspects of your qualifications for each program.
- Thoroughly proofread your application. Check that all the necessary information is complete and accurate. Have someone else review the application for misspellings and typos.
- Make a copy of the completed application and keep it on file.
Most programs will require a resume. The resume is very similar to your job search resumes’ length and content. Highlight all experiences that show how your interest has developed in that area of study and any research or technology skills, if it relates to your program. See an example of a graduate student resume.
The Personal Statement
A personal statement (or statement of purpose or personal essay) is required by just about every graduate program. It should indicate where you have been, where are you going, and how your experiences have prepared you for where you are going. It requires time, thought and frequent revisions. Review tips for creating your personal statement.
Official copies are required for any post-baccalaureate school. If you have taken coursework at multiple institutions, you likely will need academic transcripts from all (including those abroad). The website for the Office of the Registrar may have an online system to request forwarding to the schools applying to.
Letters of Recommendation
Most graduate or professional schools require two to five letters of recommendation. A faculty member in your department is usually regarded as the best reference, but letters from professionals in the field you are entering are also effective. Select people who can judge your past performance and character in a fair and accurate manner and give them plenty of notice to complete the recommendation. Contact those you think will give you a positive, accurate recommendation. Say, "I'm applying to______, could you write a positive letter of recommendation?".
The following would be helpful information to include when requesting a recommendation:
- your personal statement and resume,
- a list of the programs you will be applying for and due dates,
- a summary of your interaction with the professional (i.e. classes taken, projects completed, etc.), and
- a description of why you are interested in your chosen field.
Tailored recommendations are more persuasive than "canned" recommendations. Follow up with your recommenders often and send a thank you note for their time.
Additional items may be required with the application. Note any audio, visual, or written samples of your work required to be submitted. If you have questions regarding appropriate submissions, speak with a contact person in the program.
Review the Graduate School Application Timeline to ensure you stay on track.