So if you’re a senior like myself and are considering going to graduate school to continue your education in whatever field you’d like, you probably haven’t had a whole lot of direction. One of my professors just came to one of my classes on Monday to talk about it and didn’t even answer all the questions I still have brewing in the back of my mind. So let’s break it down:
- MAKE A LIST: Normally, I’m not a list person, I’m not going to lie. But since it’s gotten down to crunch time to getting applications and transcripts and letters of recommendations and test scores together, I cannot stress this enough. MAKE A LIST. Thinking about applying to a few different schools? MAKE A LIST.. Order them by top choice to considering but unsure. Thinking about all the things you want to look at when looking into schools? Programs, location, cost, etc. MAKE A LIST. School’s websites normally have lists of things you need to send and to apply to school, but are you going to keep that page as your desktop background? Probably not. MAKE A LIST. Have a bunch of schools you transferred from and need to send transcripts to all the places you’re applying? MAKE.A.LIST. Seriously this will help you out tremendously and keep things kinda organized, okay? Trust me.
- WRITE A PERSONAL STATEMENT/LETTER OF INTENT/ETC: I still honestly don’t know what these consist of but among the 4 or 5 schools I”m looking at, they require these to apply. Check out the schools application processes and see what they’re looking for in these letters and essays. Some schools are picky about it and some just want the general information. Who you are, why you want to do what you want to, and why you are looking at the specific program at the specific school. The professor who came to talk to us on monday in my class, whose in charge one of the graduate program admissions, said to stay away from cliche words like PASSIONATE, LOVE, WONDERFUL, EXCITING, ETC. Schools already know that you’re passionate about it or love it ok you’re applying to the program. This doesn’t mean that you can’t put your story about your grandma being in the hospital for a long time or what got you into art, etc, just don’t make it a typically store. What makes you stand out. The OWL at purdue has some great advice for writing personal statements and there’s also great information for letters of intents here as well as tons of other sources you can find from searching it on the web.
- WRITE A RESUME: If you’re applying for a grad program, some schools and even some of the professors you ask for letters of recomendation will ask for a resume. The typical resume is about 1-2 pages. This website has alot of great information on how to write one. The kinkel center can also take a look at your resume and tweak it to be perfect. I don’t suggest following a microsoft word template of a resume because they’re sometimes hard to work it.
- ASK FOR LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION: Most often schools require you to send them 3 or 4 letters of recommendation from an advisor or professor. Most schools prefer that you ask professors in your program because they often know what kind of things schools are looking for to hear compared to a boss at a job or your favorite person in the admissions office. When you go to ask, bring a resume to give them an idea of what kind of things you do outside of school as well as a stamped and labeled envelope for them to just put the letter in and send off. Easy as that!! Sometimes it’s nice to write them a thank you letter too later on for writing a recommendation.
- GET STARTED EARLY: Don’t wait until last minute to apply. Grad school applications can take several months to process so it’s better if you get started early on in the fall semester. Take the GRE (which is usually required for most schools) in the summer before your senior year or August or September before things get busy. Most applications require you to send everything in by December or January and at earliest, you can hear from them by April or March. I’m a procrastinator like nobody’s business, but getting this whole process started in September was the best decision I ever made. It’s early October right now and I’m almost done with everything! It’s such a relief.
- TAKE THE GRE: What is this even? It’s like the ACT of grad school. A pain in the butt 4 and a half hour standardized test that costs an insane amount of money. ($195). But don’t let that scare you. Some schools don’t require it for applications, but most do. Do yourself a favor and take a class to prepare for it or rent a GRE prep book. They’re inexpensive and will help you out when it comes down to test day. Sign up for the test date at least a month from when you start preparing. I know this seems like too much time to prepare, but trust me, you won’t regret it. There’s never enough time to prepare for this. Have your schools in mind for after you take it. It asks you at the end what schools you want to send your scores to and it’s free to send it right then and there after you take it. It tells you that you can send your scores later for a fee, but I don’t recommend it. It’s $27 per school. Ridiculous, I know. It’s not like going to school is taking enough of our money already…Anyway, the test center will provide the materials you need as well as a locker to put your things. You’ll have a ten minute break to go to the bathroom, get a drink, or eat some snacks you brought. Good luck!!
I could go on with various tips about applying, but I think these cover the majority. Applying is a scary and expensive process, but if you have everything organized and prepared, it’s nearly as not stressful as it seems to be.