Applying for admission to graduate and professional schools can require a variety of procedures. Typical application requirements include:
Application Form: Make sure the form is complete and neat. It is usually best to type the application rather than have it hand written. Before writing the final version, it might be helpful to prepare copies for practice versions. Proofread the form and have someone else proof it as well.
Essays: Be sure to address the specific prompt if there is one. Most graduate schools require that you write an essay or personal statement. Essays vary by school but are often the most difficult part of the application. Put time and thought into its development and reflect clearly defined goals. Your essay should be organized, concise, specific, customized and should communicate why you wish to attend graduate school and what you hope to gain from the experience. Your Career Development Office can assist in critiquing and proofreading your essays.
Transcripts: Admissions committees always require official transcripts of your grades as part of the selection process. Your GPA is one of many criteria evaluated. The content of your courses, your course load and major and the reputation of your undergraduate institution are also important. Requests for transcripts need to be made in writing to the Registrar’s Office.
Letters of Recommendation: Most schools want 3-5 letters. Provide your references with: schools you are applying to, resume and pre-addressed, stamped envelopes. It is a good idea to start this process early, allowing enough time for the author of each letter to complete the task. Choose faculty or professionals in the field who know you well. Ask them if they will be a “good” reference for you. Make sure they know the deadlines. Pick one extra reference in case you fall short. Remember to thank them and stay in touch with them. Keep them up to date on the status of your applications.
Application Fee: Don’t forget that most graduate schools require an application fee. Occasionally a fee may be waived if you meet certain financial criteria.
Interview: Some graduate schools (especially medical and business) require a personal interview. Interviews can often be the opportunity for borderline candidates to convince an institution of their potential success. The interview is also a chance for the institution to see how you react to stress and handle pressure. Keep in mind, as the interviewer is asking questions, that they are more interested in how you think, not what you think. Prepare for a graduate school interview just as you would for an employment interview. Try to think about what you want the interviewer to remember about you. The ideal candidate is thoughtful, mature, well prepared and has a life mission. You may schedule a mock interview with the Career Development Office.
Admissions Tests: Many graduate programs require that you submit scores from a standardized test. All standardized tests are offered periodically throughout the years. Paper and pencil test results typically take 4-6 weeks to be scored. However, many standardized tests are beginning to be offered almost daily at computerized sites with scores available immediately. The following is a brief outline of common standardized tests:
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE) - There are two areas of the GRE. The GRE aptitude test is about 3 hours long and measures general scholastic ability at the graduate level. It is only offered on the computer. The GRE subject tests (offered 3 times annually in paper and pencil format) measure mastery of content in a particular field. A subject test may or may not be required in addition to the general test, check with the schools you are specifically interested in. Advanced tests are given for such fields as psychology, history, English and economics. A general writing assessment is also offered.
- Miller Analogies Test (MAT) - This test consists of 100 analogies arranged in order of difficulty (50 minutes working time and about 30 minutes administrative time). The MAT may be required at some schools instead of the GRE.
- Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) - This test is a 3 1/2 hour computerized aptitude test designed to measure certain mental capabilities important in the study of management at the graduate level.
- Law School Admission Test (LSAT) - Designed to measure certain mental abilities deemed important in the study of law and thus to aid law schools in assessing the academic promise of their applicants (3 1/2 hours).
- Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) - Designed to measure general academic ability, general information and scientific ability (4 hours).
- Other tests such as the Dental Admission Test (DAT), Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT), Optometry College Admission Test (OCAT) and Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) are also administered prior to entry into professional school.
1. After sending your application materials, follow-up to see if the admissions office received them and to ensure that your file is complete.
2. Accepted: Find out the due date for a deposit. Get a catalog and course schedule to become more familiar with policies and procedures. Look into campus housing options and contact rental agencies. Actively pursue financial assistantships if you are interested (see later section).
3. Rejected: Get feedback as to why. One can appeal a decision or begin working toward enhancing qualifications for future application periods.