Since last July, I’ve spent countless hours putting together graduate program applications, reviewing statements of intent, and scouring different universities’ admission FAQ sections. However, shockingly enough, it was nowhere near as painful or time-consuming as I envisioned it would be. Everyone always talks about how it’s an extremely grueling process — and it is at times, I won’t lie about that — but there are a few things that can make it easier! So, with this year’s graduate and professional school decisions starting to come out, it seemed like it was time to look back on how my own application season went and share some insight into tips and resources I found helpful over the past few months!
- Ask your referees early on, and keep them in the loop.
Regardless of what kind of program you’re looking into, asking your referees if they’d be willing to be your reference letter writers early on is the way to go. I initially emailed mine in late July and early August, and simply asked if they’d be willing to. I told them how vital their classes had been to shaping my interests in the field I wanted to go into, and really just spoke from the heart. Throughout the decisions process, be sure to keep them updated on your outcomes — I promise it means a lot for them to know how their students are doing!
- Proofread, proofread, and then proofread again.
I’m as guilty as anyone for submitting assignments without doing a final read-through, but for applications as big as these, not submitting them the second you finish your final paragraph is essential. I found myself typically taking three days to really read through everything. I recommend reading it back at different times throughout the day — you never know what your eyes might be sliding over when you’re tired.
- Take the time to fill out scholarship applications, even if you aren’t set on going there.
Many schools, at least in my field, have scholarships you can only apply for at the time of application. They range from tuition to housing scholarships, and simply just ask you to write around 300 to 500 words on a topic. It’s easy to get tired of spending so much time on one school’s application, but you never want to pass up the chance for a scholarship.
- Make an application playlist.
I realize how odd this sounds, but finding songs that make you motivated can truly help keep you in the zone while going through each application.
- Ask for help if and when you need it.
There were a few times during my applications that I had questions for both my referees and the school themselves. I was a bit nervous that asking what seemed like trivial questions to admissions offices would make me seem unprepared or something along those lines, but every school was more than happy to answer any and every question, and it made applying that much easier.
To anyone applying, waiting to hear back, or planning to in the future — congratulations in advance, and here’s to all your dreams coming true.