Applying to graduate school is a great option if you want to further your education or avoid the real world for two to five more years. However, unlike applying to undergrad, it sometimes feels like the application process is a big secret no one will let you in on. As if senior year wasn’t stressful enough, add last minute resume builders, GREs, personal statements and graduate school applications to the mix and you’re sure to feel like you’re in over your head. Fear not, lovely reader, for I have consulted friends who are currently graduate students and those who are in the process of applying to learn some helpful tips on making your application look spotless without sacrificing your sanity.
1. Time is of the Essence The biggest way to prevent unnecessary last minute panicking is to start early. Once you’ve decided on the programs you are going to apply for, dedicate a few weeks, if not months, to keeping up with a checklist. You’ll probably want to ask professors and/or mentors to read over your personal statement so account for how long that process will take you. Similarly, it’s best to give those writing your recommendation letters ample time so they don’t feel rushed. Checking things off your list early will ensure that nothing is forgotten or put on the back burner.
2. Keep Calm Unlike undergrad applications, no one is going to hold your hand and walk you through the entire process. A lot of applying to graduate school is learning as you go. Constant worry and angst will reflect in your application so try to relax and surround yourself with positivity so that you can think clearly and focus on thoughtfully filling out your application.
3. Understand Why You’re Applying There’s no dancing around it; the real world is scary. It’s all too tempting to hide behind the walls of academia to avoid entering reality. It’s honestly worth your time to do some soul searching and assess why you’re applying. Consider how you will benefit from this additional degree and talk to others in your field of interest to hear their input.
4. Pay Attention to Deadlines Whether you’re taking the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or a different graduate admission test, like the SAT, they’re only offered a few times a year. While you want to give yourself enough time to prepare, don’t wait until the last possible date to take the test. Also, lots of times scholarship application deadlines happen before the overall application deadline. If you thought undergrad was expensive, wait until you go to graduate school. Do your research on scholarship opportunities whether they be through government or non-profit organizations.
5. Choose Your References Wisely While someone with a fancy title may look impressive on paper, pick the references who actually know you. It is better to have a recommendation from someone with a modest title who actually has a relationship with you and knows your skill set rather than someone with a higher title who can only speak of you generically. It’s important to familiarize your references with the program you are applying as well so they can keep your goals in mind when writing your recommendation.
As is true of most big decisions, planning ahead will indefinitely streamline the process and give you the greatest personal advantage! Good luck if you choose to further your education and apply for grad school.