Before submitting my graduate school application this year, I hadn’t realized the significance of a solid plan during college until I suffered much from it. I could barely imagine it has been my last quarter in college and I rushed filling out every form in my last week of application. For folks out there who are aiming to apply next year, here are some extremely helpful tips that you should be aware of.
1. Try to get involved in student organizations
I am aware that it has always been a cliche associated with college applications. But being a member of any student organization could boost your resume as long as you have been actively participating in activities and events on campus. Your role as any position in a student club can showcase your potential of leadership and teamwork, which are part of what admission officers are looking for. For instance, I chose to join Her Campus in my freshman year simply for my personal entertainment where I would have a platform to write and express myself. My enrollment somehow stayed for more than a quarter, and now I have a personal blog page. Don’t stress yourself out if your current student club is not academically or professionally oriented. It always takes time and effort to manage between your interests and schools, so your persistence and dedication tell more than a title.
2. Stay connected with your professors
Grad school applications always require three recommendation letters, which at least two of them should come from someone significant in your academic field. The most accessible references for undergraduate students would be our professors or instructors. However, since UC offers courses mostly on large scales, it has not been easy for professors to remember every student in their classes. In this case, we should follow the process of initiating, impressing, and inviting. Initiation relies heavily on our engagement and attendance. While interaction in lectures is not approachable, office hours are always the go-to. The private one-to-one sessions are always the best timing for professors to recognize who you are and what you long for. In the meantime, we should maintain a decent grade in the class to impress, which is a determining factor for a good recommendation. Inviting professors could bring us anxiety if we haven’t planned out in previous steps. Make sure you speak with a sincere tone and a solid reason for them to accept your requests.
3. Any opportunity is worth a try
I know some friends of mine avoided those job positions where they could not gain rich work experience, for instance, on-campus internships. But people should know these opportunities provided by campus on Handshake are worth as much as internships at private corporations. Even more, before working at a company, on-campus jobs seem to be the only valuable resources for us to accumulate practical knowledge. As a student intern, you could also excel at your work if you pay attention to details and handle the tasks well. Recommendations from your director or supervisor count for grad school applications, too. By the way, student internships always return with bonus credits and transcript notations.
4. Discover your interests and career goals
Everyone will graduate with at least one major, but it cannot be promised that it will be the one they will have a good time with during the rest of their life. While there is still time in college, we should make out of our resources and academics to see where we fit in. Thanks to the flexible curriculum, we could take an adventure with almost every class that we are interested in. Although I am a communications major, I have been quite attracted to the topics of philosophy and metaphysics where I ended up with an A+ after taking the class. I also loved language exchange so I registered and enjoyed a series of French classes. Don’t let the major decide and restrict what you can see on your horizon. There is no shame or pressure to switch between your major and minor, or to decide the direction of your grad school.
5. Always plan ahead
The study plan should match your graduation requirement as well as your timeline of grad school applications. Some STEM majors have to take their senior design class in their last year, where heavy workload crashed into preparing for graduation. For grad schools, the admissions process asks for a GRE score, transcripts, resumes, recommendation letters, and essays. Once you have decided on your academic passion, you need to start to do the research on prospective grad school programs. The schedule is so hectic that we are unable to balance everything. If available, you can reach out to the Internship and Career Center or the Pre-Graduate/Law Advising for more information. Good luck to you and I hope everyone can be admitted to their dream colleges!