3 Tips for Applying to Graduate School
Do you hope to receive a master’s degree in the future? Prepare yourself for success before you enroll in a graduate program by considering the following three tips:
- Writing the Personal Statement
Personal statements can be really awkward to write because you’re not used to writing about yourself. Admission committees reading applications want to know you will be a success in their program. The first step in showing this is by doing your research. Know what kind of students are admitted into the program, know the strengths of particular professors, and of the subjects taught within that area and university.
How should I begin my personal statement?
A standard technique for starting a personal statement is a first paragraph that describes a particular scene, for example describing yourself in an internship doing work or accomplishing something that is relevant to your graduate program’s area of study. The scene can also operate as a way of shifting to paragraphs that discuss your accomplishments.
The middle paragraphs in a personal statement discuss carefully chosen accomplishments that address why you are a good fit for the program. An important thing to remember is not to put everything into the statement. Selection is essential.
In the conclusion of the personal statement, leave your readers with a clear sense of what your narrative revealed about you. By following this structure, you will answer the question of how you will be a success in this program.
Four Easy Writing Steps
- Research the program
- Decide what particular parts of your experience should be described
- Just write. Get a first draft down. It won’t be perfect, but you can revise it later.
- Focus your revisions on a beginning that pulls the reader in and a conclusion that ties your themes together.
For more help, check out this complete guide to writing personal statements.
2. Getting Letters of Recommendation
When asking professors, supervisors, or leaders in the community for letters of recommendation do not wait until the last minute. The people you ask will be annoyed if you do this and the quality of your letter may deteriorate as a result. Plan ahead! Two to four weeks gives someone enough time to write a letter, while also not forgetting about it. It’s also okay to send a reminder to your writers a week or so before the deadline you’ve given.
Another important factor is to really know your recommenders. This will result in better letters. Your knowledge of particular people writing for you can also influence the time frame you give. For example, your favorite professor will write a great letter for you, but you know he does everything at the last possible minute. It’s okay to give your professor a deadline that will still allow you to get the application in on time without any last minute anxiety.
In some cases, recommenders may give you a copy of the letter and allow you to make changes to it. This shows a level of trust within a relationship. It’s also a good idea to always let the person who wrote the original letter know what changes you made.
- Submitting the Application
Application fees vary; they can be anywhere from $25 to more than $100. If you are planning on applying to multiple schools, please plan ahead and put this expense into your budget.
The format for submitting the letters of recommendation and personal statement will always vary. Read the instructions carefully and follow them closely.
Important Things to Remember
Keep track of the deadlines. Each school may have different dates when applications are due. Use this Graduate School Application Timeline from Princeton Review as a general guideline.
- Organization is key. Embrace the Excel spreadsheet! They can provide a nice visual way of monitoring when the different components of an application are received, as well as deadlines.
- Grad school is one possible option. Never put all of your hopes and expectations on one program or working with a particular professor. There are many, many routes to choose.