5 Tips for Applying to Grad School

Starting last August I started to research Masters in Fine Arts programs. I am an English Writing Major at DePauw University and have always known that I wanted to get my MFA so I could teach college classes eventually. Unlike undergrad, I had no initial information about graduate programs, which meant that I had to do a lot more research and had a lot more questions. Here are a few tips and pieces of advice I have for anyone planning to continue their education! 


Note: All graduate programs are different, so my experience applying for MFA programs might be really different than another type of degree but hopefully these tips will be helpful across several programs! 

  1. 1. Stay Organize

    The first thing you are going to want to do is start a spreadsheet. This is going to be crucial for you to make sure you don’t miss a deadline or get the number of letters of rec confused between two schools. I made a column for the name of the school with a link to their website, the deadline, what extra materials were required, the city where the school was located, and then an extra space for notes. This might also be helpful for you to send to your references so they can stay organized and get their letters in for you as well. 

  2. 2. Ask for Advice

    Professors, parents, and friends are all great resources when you are applying to graduate programs. I set up meetings with a couple of professors so I could ask questions about how to pick a program, funding, and just the application process in general. This was incredibly helpful. One of the best pieces of advice I got was to look at the faulty, because even if the program is the best in the country that doesn’t mean you are going to get along with the faulty members. You want to make sure that the professors at the school you are going to will be able to mentor you on topics you are passionate about. You should also reach out to anyone you know at a specific school you are looking at, because they will be able to tell you how the school is currently running.  

  3. 3. Start Early 

    This is what advice I should have taken. It always feels like the deadlines are far away, but time goes by fast. I wish I would have spent the summer doing my research so I would have only had to worry about writing my essays and actually applying in the fall. Even if you are a year away, it’s never too early to start just doing some research on schools you think you might want to apply to.

  4. 4. Proofread Everything 

    Every article I read about getting into graduate programs said that programs get a lot of really great applications so they are looking for reasons to deny you, and a meaningless typo will do just that. I read over my essays about a million times and then I had my mom and my brother read over them as well. As many eyes as you can have look over them the better. 

  5. 5. Don’t Get Discouraged

    Every program is looking for a different kind of student. Just because you get denied from the school you thought would be easy to get into doesn’t mean that you won’t still get into your top choice! In fact, most of the time that rejection just means you weren’t a good fit for that program. Even if you get rejected from all of them, still don’t get discouraged. You can always take a gap year and apply again. Then you will be more qualified, have some experience, and be more prepared for the application process. 

I ended up only applying to three schools. I got accepted from one, waitlisted at one, and denied from another. It made the decision to accept a position at the University of California Riverside easy! I will spend the next two years in California getting my MFA. Hope you can learn from my application process.