Applying to Graduate School: My Experience & Tips
So You Are Applying to Graduate School
Congratulations! This is a huge step towards reaching your future goals. However, the application process can be confusing and complicated. I decided to compile the necessary steps and tips that I took while applying to graduate school so that you can have an idea of what is ahead of you.
1. Finding The Perfect Program
To start your process, do some research about the available programs that meet your needs. Ask yourself what you want out of your graduate experience! Location, length of the program, and tuition and scholarships are just some of the aspects that you should consider. Graduate school is a considerable investment of your time and money, so you need to research the programs you are interested in to make sure it fits your needs.
I chose to start my search through recommendations of peers and faculty at my current university. I also searched online to look at the unique qualifications of each program. Once I found programs that I thought would be a fit for me, I looked at the requirements of the programs and began the next step.
2. Taking the GRE and other graduate exams
Oh, the dreaded Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This is a standardized, multiple hour test that tests you on quantitate analysis, verbal skills, and analytical writing. Once you have found the programs you are interested in, look at the testing requirements for each program. Whether it is the GRE or the GMAT (for Business Students) or any other exam, you will need to sign up as soon as possible.
Now, I do not know about you, but I do not enjoy standardized tests. My experience with the GRE was a fairly common one. I tried to study beforehand, but I most definitely did not start soon enough. Each exam is complicated and thorough, so it requires A LOT of preparation. Get a head start and start studying! I suggest ordering a study book like this one.
3. completing the application
When you find a program and decide to apply, you will start by filling out an application. The most important thing is to make sure this is complete by the deadline! Applications will have many parts from essays to letter of recommendations. Make sure to start early and fine tune every detail.
On my application, I was required to have at least two written essays, a video essay, a current resume, a headshot, an unofficial transcript, and two letters of recommendation. This took a lot of effort and time to get these requirements completed. I would recommend asking for letters of recommendation fairly early in advance of the deadline and asking past professors or employers. A great letter of recommendation can make a huge difference!
4. The Interview
After submitting your application, you may be required to interview with the program! Interviews can vary from program to program. Some programs may require an interview, but others may not at all. Some interviews may be over the span of a weekend and others may be a 15 minute Skype Call. Each program is different, so do some research to see what your program usually requires.
In my case, I was invited to interview a few days after I submitted my application. I was given the option to have either a Skype Interview or an on-campus visit and interview. I opted to visit the campus, and my itinerary included a day full of different meetings and interviews. Before my interview, I practiced some basic interview questions at home. Check out my article on the Most Commonly Asked Interview Questions to get an idea of what questions you should be practicing.
After your interview, be sure to follow up with a Thank You Note. While this is just common courtesy, it will help to set you apart from the other candidates.
5. The Wait...
So you turned in your application, and you have interviewed…..now what? Honestly, the wait was the worst part for me. If you are having anxiety while waiting for your decision, take a deep breath! Be confident in yourself and your work. If you worked hard in the previous steps, then you can relax and know that you gave it your best effort.
Overall, the process took about one month for me to complete; I had to wait two weeks after my interview to hear back about my decision. However, many of my peers, who applied to other programs, have been going through this process for many months. Every program is different, so keep that in mind when you get worried. One of my favorite resources was The Grad Cafe. This is an online forum and collection made from other graduate applicants. They have forums and blogs that are extremely helpful and relatable during this period of your life.
good luck applying to graduate School!
Work hard, stay positive, and put your best effort into the process. Feel free to let me know in the comments about your worries or experiences! Good luck!