You survived four harrowing years of undergrad. Now, it’s time to further your education by earning a master’s degree. Of course, grad school isn’t easy, and neither is applying for it. However, as long as you have a step-by-step plan, you can apply to a handful of colleges before the deadline and hopefully earn admission to one.
Here are six basic steps to apply for graduate school.
- List Potential Grad Schools
The first step entails narrowing down your options. Which universities offer a master’s degree in your program and genuinely interest you? Build a list of at least nine schools and split them into three groups.
The first will include your dream schools where admission requirements are competitive, and admission is most unlikely. The second group should consist of three safety schools, ones that will most certainly accept you. The last group is for target colleges that may or may not admit you based solely on your personal statement. You should meet or exceed standards in every category.
- Make an Admission Requirement Spreadsheet
Next, make an Excel spreadsheet with the admission requirements for each school. Many of them will overlap, so organizing and formatting them into a checklist will allow you to be more efficient as you begin the application process.
As you submit transcripts, recommendation letters, your resume, and personal statements, check them off the spreadsheet. Doing so will ensure you send all necessary documents in on time, boosting your chances of receiving acceptance letters.
- Pass the GRE
You must also take and pass your Graduate Record Exam. Most universities require you to take this multiple-choice, standardized test, although each one puts a different emphasis on your score. Thus, it’s important to understand each school’s minimum requirement before taking the exam and submitting your results.
Attaining a high score on the entrance exam is difficult if you don’t prepare. Moreover, preparation will probably look different than studying for an undergrad test. In addition to knowing the material, you’ll also have to use it to problem-solve in real time. Essentially, you’ll need more than just a weekend to prepare well.
- Request Official Transcripts
When you applied to undergrad, you may remember collecting your high school transcripts and submitting them to your top universities. Now, you must do the same with your undergrad transcripts to show proof of your grade point average.
Most graduate schools will require a GPA of at least 3.0, while more exclusive programs may require a higher number. Therefore, your best bet is to earn a solid GPA while you’re an undergrad student. Then, you won’t have to worry whether your score is good enough for admission, and you can focus your attention on writing an excellent resume instead.
- Collect Recommendation Letters
Recommendation letters are a key component of your graduate school application. Ultimately, their quality will depend on your professors and mentors. However, you still have control over who you ask, which can mean the difference between a mediocre and an outstanding recommendation.
To obtain the best possible letter, make an appointment with your professor, mentor, or adviser and formally request one in person. They’ll be much less likely to turn you down if you’re standing right in front of them. Also, be sure to give them plenty of time to write the letter instead of springing the deadline on them at the last minute.
- Compose a Resume and Personal Statement
Grad schools often require some type of resume or CV outlining your experience, leadership roles, internships, special projects, and unique courses. If they request a resume, try to fit all the information on one page. Proofread for consistency, formatting, spelling, and grammar before submitting it.
Additionally, some universities will ask you to write a personal statement or statement of purpose. In this case, you must compose an essay explaining why you’re interested in the program, why you believe yourself to be a good fit, your background, and some of your finest accomplishments. Share your passion for your field and show off your writing skills and unique personality. Ask someone to proofread the final piece and edit it yourself after receiving some feedback.
Submit Your Applications and Wait
Once you gather all the necessary documents and have written your resume and statement, you can finally send in your application. Triple check the requirements for each school. Then, submit them at least one month before they’re due. Now, all you can do is pray and wait.
Prepare for follow-up interviews or in-person visits with college staff as prospective schools peruse your applications. If you have the chance, ask questions about the program and share how you might contribute to its value. With a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, you should receive that acceptance letter soon enough.