Applying to Graduate School
Application deadlines vary greatly. They can be as early as August before your senior year (common for medical schools) or as late as spring/summer of your senior year for programs with rolling admissions. Most deadlines are usually between January and March for fall admission. Always meet formal deadlines and remember that many schools encourage and act upon early applications.
Most schools now have the capability for you to apply online; some even require it. Check each school’s web site to find the requirements and deadlines for applying to their program.
- Writing your statement of purpose (personal statement)
- How to request a letter of recommendation
- College transcripts
Writing your statement of purpose (personal statement)
Your statement of purpose is an extremely important part of your application. It gives the faculty assessing your application their most significant impression of you as an individual. Most schools want to know the same four things:
- What you want to study at graduate school.
- Why you want to study it.
- What experience you have in your field.
- What you plan to do with your degree once you have it.
The best preparation for writing a statement of purpose is to be thoroughly familiar with the program to which you are applying. Familiarize yourself with the work of the faculty members in your research area at each institution so that you know whether your interests match.
Tailor any general statement by showing how the program you are applying to fits your background and interests. In all cases, faculty members are interested in your motivation, your intellectual skills, and your suitability for their particular program.
Neatness, accurate spelling and correct grammar are important. Ask your academic advisor, mentor, and/or Career Services to critique and edit any extended statement of purpose you are asked to supply. Even if you have good qualifications and recommendations, your acceptance may depend on this essay.
How to request a letter of recommendation
- Give your writers plenty of time so they aren’t forced to quickly compose a letter or miss any application deadlines. A minimum of three or four weeks is customary and will allow you to check back a few days before the deadline to ensure that the letter has been sent or faxed.
- Give your writers a well-organized, thorough packet of materials. Ideally, these elements should include:
- A current copy of your academic transcript showing the courses you’ve taken and the level at which you’ve performed. This does not have to be an official copy; a photocopy is fine
- A copy of your academic résumé
- A copy of your statement of purpose or personal statement (if the school has requested one)
- A pre-addressed envelope for each letter, with postage affixed if the letter is being sent via postal mail.
- Any forms that need to be submitted with the letter. If you are asked to indicate whether or not you waive access to the letter of recommendation, be sure to answer affirmatively (that you do waive the right). Answering otherwise gives the appearance of not trusting your letter writer, and it dilutes the effectiveness of the letter
- A cover note briefly listing:
- Your contact information in case the writer needs to reach you
- The deadline for each letter you need
- Your career aspirations
- Information you would like emphasized in the letter
By adhering to these general guidelines, you will increase the chances of getting good letters of recommendation and, ultimately, admission to the schools you seek.
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A transcript is a certified, official copy of your permanent academic record. Since a transcript contains confidential information, it cannot be released to anyone other than you without your written authorization.
You should submit transcripts of all college work you have undertaken with your graduate school application. Even one or two courses in a summer session at another institution should be reported on a transcript.
Timeline for graduate school admission
This timeline was created for the student who will be going directly from GC to graduate school.
First and sophomore years
- Declare your major(s) and research career options in your areas of interest.
- If you plan on going directly to graduate school, make sure that you are meeting all requirements for advanced study in your field.
- Get to know your professors. These are the people who will be writing your recommendations and evaluating your upper-level course work.
- Get involved in campus clubs & organizations.
- Individual research projects are especially impressive as they allow students to simultaneously test interests and develop research skills.
- If you are interested in Pre-Law or Pre-Med, attend club meetings on campus. Leadership responsibilities at the undergraduate level will enhance your graduate school application.
- Begin researching schools and programs and request up-to-date catalogs. As you start to compare programs, begin to eliminate the schools that don’t interest you. Try to visit your top choices.
- Talk to students and faculty from programs that interest you.
- Request applications from the schools of interest. Some schools no longer have paper applications–they are done strictly online.
- Begin researching scholarships and fellowships to help you pay for school. Much of this information can be found on each school’s web site.
- Get federal and institutional financial aid information.
- Sign up for and begin reviewing for the entrance exam(s) you will be taking. Make sure to find out if GRE subject tests are required.
- Estimate expenses for applying. This will help you work the expensive process of graduate school application into the budget for your fall semester of your senior year.
- Finalize the list of programs you wish to apply to and begin completing the applications.
- Create a time line of all the application due dates and give yourself a deadline to submit or mail each of your completed applications.
- Identify the persons you will ask to write letters of recommendation.
- Update your résumé and do a mock interview with career services or during Super Tuesday to help you prepare for upcoming interviews.
- Take the entrance exam required for your program if you haven’t already.
- Write your statement of purpose and have it reviewed by a faculty member or Career Services.
- Request OFFICIAL transcripts from the Registrar’s Office. You need to make sure they are mailed from GC to each graduate school to meet due dates.
- Complete financial aid and scholarship forms.
- November / December
- Finalize & mail all application packets. (Spending extra money on return receipts is a good idea so that you are guaranteed the school received your application.)
- Contact your recommenders and kindly remind them of the deadlines for your application (if they have not already completed and mailed them). Send them a thank you letter after they mail your recommendations.
- Follow-up and make sure that each school has received your application packet and that it is complete. Do this at least one and a half weeks prior to the deadline so that you can resend anything that is needed.
- January / February / March
- Prepare for any interviews you may have. Complete and mail your financial aid forms (both federal and institutional).
- April / May
- Try to visit the schools to which you have been accepted before committing to a program.
- Assess your financial situation to help you decide where to attend.
- Accept and decline offers in writing and/or by phone as soon as you have made a decision.
- Write a note to your recommenders letting them know where you will be next year!