Keep yourself organized from the very beginning! Keep materials in the original envelope and record dates on the outside. Maintain a calendar of deadlines for completing tasks.
Application requirements. Although applications are sent to the Admissions Office, it is a committee of faculty members that makes the final decision to accept a student into a graduate program.
- Prepare for and take standardized tests
- Send for applications during the summer before your senior year
- Make a list of what each institution requires
- Find out when these institutions start to accept applications
- Learn about rolling admissions and deferred acceptance policies
- Request transcripts from all undergraduate schools you attended
- Obtain letters of recommendation
- Do rough drafts of applications on photocopied forms
- Prepare an outstanding statement of purpose
- Complete and return all financial aid applications
- Follow-up to be sure all materials have been received (transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.)
Standardized Tests. Most schools will require you to take the Graduate Record Examination General Test (GRE) and some will also require a GRE Subject Test. Scores on the GRE or any other required test are definitely a factor in determining your acceptance into a graduate program. In some cases, you must achieve a certain score or your application will not be given consideration. Other schools will not weigh the test scores as heavily and consider various credentials and competencies.
The GRE is given only on the computer at various testing locations. Tests are offered frequently throughout the year. You can see your score instantly when you finish or cancel the score before seeing it if you feel you did not do well. Before leaving the test site you can select up to four schools to receive your scores. Scores are reported 10 to 15 days after you take the test.
You can prepare for the GRE by ordering practice tests when you register to take the exam, by coming into the Career Center to take a prep tutorial on the computer, by purchasing test preparation books, or by taking a test preparation course offered by the Princeton Review or Kaplan Review. The more practice you do the better prepared you will be. You will become familiar with the format, types of questions, and working under the pressure of timed tests.
Application Form. Do not underestimate the importance of the application form. Many application forms can be downloaded and completed on the computer. It is highly recommended to:
- Type everything!
- Think before you write
- Review for accuracy
- Make photocopies before sending
Statement of Purpose/Personal Statement. This statement is typically an essay that describes the reasons you are pursuing graduate studies and why you have chosen the particular field. It is your opportunity to present yourself as an excellent candidate for the program and to provide a writing sample. Give yourself plenty of time to work on it. The finished product should be the result of four to five drafts. The faculty committee reading your statement is not looking for a dry recounting of your life story. The statement should take the reader on an "intellectual odyssey" of where you are now, where you have been, and where you want to go in the future.
Be positive, convincing, and enthusiastic as you convey:
- what you want them to know about you
- what makes you unique
- what you will bring to this program than no other candidate can
Have your personal statement reviewed by professors and/or Career Center staff
Transcripts. You will need to submit official transcripts (which have a raised seal) from all undergraduate schools you’ve attended. It is a good idea to request a student copy of your transcripts for your own records. Transcripts are obtained through the Registrar’s Office.
Letters of recommendation. Most schools will require three letters of recommendation. Consider who you will ask to write letters early. Writing a thorough letter takes time; the people you choose will want advance notice. Choose professors who you have gotten to know or in whose courses you have done well. Choose people who know you. . .your goals, your academic ability, your perseverance to succeed, etc.