So, you’ve made the brave choice of applying for graduate school. Congratulations! This isn’t an easy step to take, but it is a very brave one. Not a lot of people keep going after their BA, so the fact that you did must mean that you really want people to call you Doctor!
No, but seriously, just applying for grad school is a journey within itself. So, here are some things to keep in mind when you apply!
One of the first things that you should do before the application process is to be ready for it. You should decide on which graduate schools, and what programs, you’ll be applying to a year before you actually begin the process. It may seem a bit tedious, but by doing this, you’ll be saving a lot of time in the long run. As you get familiarized with the programs, you’ll know what they’re looking for and if their features and outcomes from the program are really helpful for your end goals and/or career choices.
After knowing where you want to go, you should really know what your selected schools will require from you. Each one should have a list of application requirements in accordance to their specific programs, but if you’re having doubts or you’re curious about different possibilities, you should call or email the institutions. I know it might sound a bit lame, but it is better to be safe than sorry; you do not want to find out you did something wrong through a rejection letter. All universities will require different things, but the most common requirements are entry fees, graduate exams, recommendation letters, and an entrance essay.
Something that a lot of people don’t tell you about applying to graduate school is how costly it can be. You could apply to just a handful of universities and it could cost you hundreds of dollars. This is why prepping a year in advance is very handy; you get to save up on unwanted expenses. Sadly, you aren’t getting this money back, even if you get rejected, so you have to be sure to invest it in schools you think are worth it.
Entry fees and graduate exams will not guarantee you a spot in the program, but they are a vital and expensive part of the process. Luckily, some fees and exams can be waived, but to do this, you must know and abide by the requirements that this entails, which will probably mean evidencing financial need or writing an essay detailing why these expenses should be waived for you.
Recommendation letters and entrance essays are the more manageable, but subjective, parts of the application process. These solely depend on your educational knowledge and experience within selected fields. It should go without saying, but you should make sure that the person writing your recommendation letters knows you well academically and/or professionally. Just because you deem them a good person does not mean that they will write you an adequate recommendation letter, and there’s nothing worse than a bad recommendation letter. If the grad school you’re applying to receives a document that talks about you in exclusively generic terms, chances are they’ll think you asked the first person you bumped into and not someone that could actually vouch for you.
Entrance essays, on the other hand, are completely on you. Yes, you’ll have to adjust your writing depending on what program you’ll send it to, but do not exaggerate tales or tailor it completely to the institution’s liking; the admissions office will notice if you’re lying. Do present yourself the best way you can, be honest with your interest, and always start off with an attention grabber, but never lie about anything. It may seem very basic, but a lot of people ignore this completely. They claim to be great athletes while spending summers doing academically impressive yet improbable feats, which immediately exposes them as soon as they get interviewed or their school finds out through their, or others’, social media posts. Another great thing that could help out when writing your essay is giving yourself enough time to actually write and rewrite it, and have other academic peers review it to give you advice. As soon as you’re mostly satisfied with it, you’ll be great.
With all this said, have fun applying for grad schools! Just kidding, it won’t be that fun. But, you can learn and grow from the experience and your hard work will be rewarded.