Deciding to Go to Grad School? 8 Steps to Completing the Application

Many decide to go back to school as a means for getting ahead in this economically challenging world we live in. If you’ve decided that grad school is the right choice for career development, then you’ll need to learn all the basics. After you’ve chosen the right graduate school, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the application process as it is very different from traditional college. By making yourself aware of the process and starting on time, you can increase your chances of being accepted.

  1. Give Yourself Time – As previously stated, the application process for graduate school is a lot more involved than you might think. Between pinpointing several schools of interest, finding adequate recommendations, obtaining your transcripts and passing the GRE test there is a lot to be done. Therefore, it is recommended that you start applying anywhere from a year to six months in advance.
  2. Understand Your Motivations – On your admissions application, you will likely be asked wny you should be accepted into the school. Understanding your motivations for returning to school can help you be prepared for such questions. Determine what type of program is right for you, whether you’re looking for full or part time courses, and whether you’re aiming to receive a masters or a PhD.
  3. Take the GRE or GMAT Exam– Similar to the SAT or ACT, the GRE is a test that assesses your general skills acquired over the years. In most instances, you’ll need to rank in the 50th to 75th percentile to be considered acceptable by graduate schools. If test taking is not your strong suit, or you’ve never taken any of the above tests before, you may want to brush up by taking an online practice test. Once you’ve practiced, taking the real test is required. Be sure to supply a copy of your grades on the application for consideration. If you are taking the GMAT to get into business school, you definitely want to devote a few months to study. The GMAT is not something you want to wing because each test score stays on your permanent record.
  4. Begin Writing Personal Statements – Personal statements are important for graduate school applications. This is the point in the application where you get to sell yourself to the school. It must, without a doubt encompass everything that is you and show the admissions department why you’d be an asset. Some things to remember as you write your personal statement include: an attention grabbing first paragraph, key examples of your worth to the school, and free from spelling and gramatical errors.
  5. Get Your Letters of Recommendation – Now you need the support and recommendations of others. Generally, applicants look to old college professors as their main source. When it comes to receiving letters of recommendation, it is important that its not a generic letter. It must have significance and should help in some way to prove that you are a good candidate for the job. You will need to find out from your graduate school how many letters are needed, however, the average is three. Start as early as possible in asking for letters and make sure they understand the significance. It also helps to ask someone who has some relevance in your field of study. For example if you’re going back to get your master’s degree in social work, talking with your math professor might not be the best place to start.
  6. Request Your Transcripts – You will need official transcripts from any colleges you’ve previously attended. You will have to contact each school to find out the best way to retrieve your transcripts. Keep in mind you may have to pay a fee for each one. It is often best to have the school send your transcriptes directly to the graduate school you’re applying to.
  7. Check Out Work Examples – You may be required to submit examples of work you’ve done in the past. If you can, get the opinion of an old professor on which assignment stands out most. Review the work entirely to check for errors and also to familiarize yourself with the work you completed. It is very possible that you’ll be asked about it during an interview.
  8. Revise and Submit – Review everything in your application to ensure that its been properly completed. Check for errors and ommissions to be sure everything is accurate. Once you’re done, all that’s left to do is submit your application and wait for a letter of acceptance.

The application process for graduate school is no joke and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Take the time to ensure that you follow all of the above steps along with any other requirements that have been set forth by the graduate school of your choice. Remember, you’re essentially investing in your future and as such you want to put your best foot forward. It can take a while to hear back but with any luck, you’ll be on your way back to school in a few months.

Today’s post is written by Kevin, an account director at for a boutique investment firm and has been working within finance, marketing and public relations for over 8 years. 

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