Applying to graduate school could be an incredibly taxing process. But fortunately, you have me to walk you through it- your fairy grad mother (I just had to). Okay, so let’s dive right in!
Planning is essential to surviving this process. Ideally, I would say to start exploring programs of interest a year before applying. The summer before applying, however, is way more crucial in the planning process. Take the summer break to start drafting your personal statements. Also, start thinking about how you might financially take on the costs of graduate school and research scholarships and grants.
What I found amazingly helpful was creating a spreadsheet. Open a google sheet and consider having a column dedicated to the following information: list of the schools and programs, required documents, required tests, application deadlines, and any other vital information you may want to include.
So let’s talk about the letters of recommendation. You might need 2-3 letters but be sure to inquire on whether the program specifies that a portion of the letters come from certain people such as professors. Identify potential recommenders early and make a list of 4-5 people you could ask to write the letters. When you find people to write those letters you must give them more enough time to write them. I would say to allow them around a month to complete them and possibly even send them a reminder email a week before the month is over. Your recommenders might specify the type of information they need from you to write the letter (e.g., a draft of your personal statement and resume) but, it wouldn’t hurt to create a package with any information you think might be helpful.
Last, but in no way least are the personal statements. Constructing personal statements are arguably one of the hardest things to do, at least in my opinion. It’s strongly recommended that you tailor the personal statements specifically to the schools/programs you’re applying to. A few ways to make the statements unique is to focus on the different courses, distinguished faculties (and possible research supervisors), and program design and structure. You’re going to want to make sure that these statements are top tier like it needs to scream, “YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO NOT ACCEPT ME!” To perfect these essays you must have them revised over and over again. Take advantage of the writing services on campus. Also, elicit help from career advisers and professionals in your prospected field of interest. Don’t rush it and take the time to plan out what you want to convey to the board of admissions, and be sure that your essay addresses the prompt sufficiently.
A few last thoughts:
- Plan ahead. Last-minute planning will bring unnecessary stress and might even jeopardize your chances of getting into your program of choice.
- Pay close attention to deadlines and thoroughly research the program(s) you’re interested in.
- Attend as many info sessions as you can before you start the application process.
- Don’t forget to apply for financial aid and brainstorm ways in which you can finance your higher education.
Best of luck!