10 Tips For Applying To Graduate School
Your parents have been prodding you for a couple of years to move on to masters or doctoral study or your bachelor's degree has helped you move up at work, but you are at a plateau and are looking for 10 tips for applying to graduate school before you start mailing in applications. The key to this game is preparation and forethought. Masters and doctoral work can launch your career to new heights or it can muddy your resume with qualifications beyond what you are really passionate about. Take these ten tips for applying to graduate school and choose wisely.
- Check out an academic conference in your field. There's nothing worse than thinking you want a life full of academic work only to find you would really rather be a manager in a call center, write copy for an ad agency, fight forest fires, or unload ships on the docks. Talk to the presenters, not just about their topics, but about the best and worst parts of their jobs. This tip for applying to graduate school will help you decide what type of program you want to pursue.
- Choose an applied or research program. At a number of colleges there is a divide between graduate programs that lead toward a Ph.D. (Doctorate of Philosophy) and others that lead toward an applied terminal degree, such as Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education), D.B.A. (Doctorate of Business Administration), M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) and others. Research the career path your master's or doctorate program prepares you for and apply to graduate schools that offer the right path.
- Determine your focus in your discipline and write your application essay. Know what you want to research when applying to graduate schools with a research focus. Your application essay will show your knowledge of the field and interest in developing new knowledge in your area of interest. Even if you choose an applied track in fields such as education, business management, finance, criminology, art, design or nursing, knowing your focus can help your essay attract attention from the application review committee.
- Research the faculty. You are looking for mentors that you can rely on for years to come. These people will write you letters of recommendation or blow you off. When you apply to graduate school, remember you are interviewing them as much as they are evaluating you.
- Prepare for and take the GRE. There are numerous test prep tools out there. Use them. Acing a multiple choice exam says more about your test taking strategies than it is about your knowledge. For example, answers that include absolutes like "always" are often incorrect. "Never," or rarely, choose them.
- Develop a timeline. Finding the right match takes time. Mail in your applications and prepare to make follow-up calls the following month.
- Request letters of recommendation. Find three or four individuals that will provide you strong recommendations. Your work may speak for itself, but you need professionals in the field to speak for you.
- Include a Vita. Include a vita in your application since a vita is a part of all professional academic applications. It's your calling card when you graduate. Start it early, that way you can see your weaknesses and build support in those areas while in the program.
Your application for graduate school begins two or more years of rigorous effort that will deepen your knowledge, ability to research, and connections in your chosen field. Use these ten tips for applying to graduate school and take the next step in your career.