Top 10 Tips for Graduate School Admission
Hi. I’m Tom Steffen, a senior consultant
with Admissions Consultants. Formerly, I was Director of Graduate Admissions at Duke University.
For 12 years, I was Director of Admissions at art schools where I reviewed thousands
of applications for visual arts majors. Go to graduate school for your reasons not for
other peoples’. Graduate study represents an enormous investment
of time and money. Don’t sign on to that commitment unless you’re sure it’s what
you want to do. Be realistic about the benefits of graduate
study. Don’t fall into thinking that a graduate
degree is a magic bullet that will guarantee you career advancement or personal fulfillment.
Some fields require an advanced degree for advancement; some don’t.
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong (and quite a bit right) with continuing your
education because you value learning and enjoy what the experience adds to your life.
Research your program options carefully. There’s a bewildering array of degrees and
programs available in many fields. Make sure you understand the difference between
one program and another. Make sure you’re selecting a program that serves your interests
and needs. Think about taking graduate level classes
on a non-degree basis. Many colleges and universities allow people
to take a limited number of courses without having to apply for or enroll in a degree
program. Doing so can give you an idea of what to expect
from graduate study. It can also demonstrate your interest in your field, and your ability
to do work at the graduate level. If you’ve been out of college for a while,
this can also help you get letters of reference attesting to your intellectual potential.
Take the time to prepare for the GRE. There are many good test preparation books
and courses available. Take advantage of them! A good test score alone won’t get you into
grad school, but it will bolster your application. Besides, if you’re required to submit test
scores, you may as well make sure you submit good ones.
Work out the story of your life – and how you will tell it to the admissions committee.
You’re not going to graduate school just by chance. Something led you to this decision
– life experience, intellectual curiosity, career ambitions.
Your story makes you unique. It differentiates you from the pool of other applicants the
admissions committee considers. Learn more about the school you want to get
into. Find out what is going on at your chosen school.
Has a faculty member recently won an award, or has a research project made the news?
That is the kind of information that you can use to help explain why you think this school
or program is the right one for you (and why you are the right student for it).
Get an early start on your personal statement. Your personal statement may be the most important
part of your application. It tells the admissions committee who you
are, and why they should want you at their school. Don’t leave it until the last minute
– you’ll want time to review and revise. Don’t follow a canned outline, or ask someone
else to write your statement for you. Admissions committees can spot generic and ghostwritten
material a mile off, and they don’t like it.
Work on getting your letters of reference. This can be one of the more intimidating aspects
of graduate school admissions, especially for applicants who have been out of college
for a while. Think about what kind of information will
help your application – would it help to have some assurance that you’re intellectually
capable of graduate level study, or that you can handle a heavy workload?
Who can provide a credible letter that provides that information? Don’t be overly shy about
asking people to write letters for you. Remember, it’s a compliment to them that
you value their opinion and believe an admissions committee will give weight to what they have
to say. Relax!
Once you have your application and supporting materials submitted (and know they’ve been
received), there’s nothing more you can do.
Take a break from your labors. With attention to the above tips – and some luck – you
should soon be in the position of having to choose among multiple offers.
Whether you are planning to apply late or early in the admissions season or just want
to discuss some pre positioning issues, we’re to help. Call us at 1.800.809.0800 to learn
more about how we can ensure you maximize your grad school admissions chances.