The road to graduate school is long
– and can be complex and sometimes confusing. To help
keep you on track, here's a calendar of what grad school
applicants should be doing, and when.
If you have not yet taken the GRE,
or if you are not happy with your score, try to take
it at your earliest convenience. Your applications
will not be considered complete until your test
scores have been received. To register for the test,
go to the ETS website (www.gre.org).
unsure if you need a GRE prep course? Call us at
1.800.809.0800 (+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and
Canada) to discuss your situation. We're here to
Define your most important search criteria
so you can narrow down your school choices. If your top
priority is to begin a full-time graduate program next
fall, count on applying to several schools. There's no need to
apply to every school out there, but you're taking a
risk of winding up nowhere if you apply to just one or
two. The number of schools you
ultimately decide to apply to will depend upon how high
you rank a safety school and on the time and resources
you can commit to applications.
Don't sacrifice quality for quantity.
You will do much better if you submit 5 applications
that each reflect 100 per cent of your best effort than
if you were to submit 10 applications which each
reflected 50 per cent of your best effort.
Visit schools. Try to meet with admissions
staff and students. Begin
networking with current students, faculty, and alumni
from these schools.
Request copies of your college transcripts
for yourself. You'll use these to refresh your memory
about your school performance and position yourself for
graduate school admission.
Take the same objective look at your undergraduate
transcripts that the
will. Was the coursework adequately rigorous? If you had a bad
semester, do you have adequately long and strong
trends to mitigate it? Does it appear you lacked
focus and only did well in classes that excited you?
Depending on the picture your academic record paints
of your performance, you may want to consider
constructing an "alternative transcript." Exercise
caution in course selection, however, as taking too
many supplementary classes can be even worse than
not taking enough.
Sometimes, it may be necessary to
defer your applications by a year to properly align
your positioning. If you are very serious about
attaining that graduate degree, your question should
not be if you will do this, but what you will do to
fill the next year before your anticipated
Think about what you do outside of work and/or school. Will those
activities and memberships support your case for
graduate school admission? How can you best spin the
personal and professional development you have
gained from these various activities? Is there
anything about these involvements that can
successfully differentiate you from the other highly
qualified applicants or, possibly, that can provide
you with a 'wow' factor that will make the graduate
school programs drool all over you?
Draw up a schedule of what schools you want to apply
to, when. Remember that it's generally to your
advantage to apply early to graduate school programs
that use rolling admissions policies, since the earlier
you apply the greater number of openings available.
We stress generally since it may be
advantageous to wait until later in the cycle if you
need more time to polish a personal statement
addendum, retake the GRE, etc.
If you're applying to grad schools this year, you should
begin formulating your story themes and wow factors right away. The best ideas
and deepest introspections are never rushed!
Take a hard, critical look at your candidacy. That is what
graduate school admissions committees will most certainly be doing.
Understand your candidacy from their perspective so you can optimally mitigate
your weaknesses and highlight your strengths.
Your weaknesses. Sometimes it is best not to bring
attention to a weakness. Other times, it must be mitigated. Weaknesses can be
mitigated in the personal statement, addendum, or letters of reference.
Your strengths. You need to become a self promoter
without coming across as arrogant. You also need to prioritize the strengths you
want to draw attention to, as
you will not likely be able to highlight all of them in adequate detail within
the limited space of
Your story themes and 'wow' factors. What are the
most important points you need to make about your background, values, beliefs,
experiences, and reasons for pursuing grad school? What makes you unique in a
way that is going to make the admissions committee want to have you
attend their school?
Your fit. Why are you a match made in heaven for the
specific grad school being targeted? Why will you be a better fit and contribute
more to the program and community than the other applicants? Does your
application convincingly argue that, if admitted, you will gladly attend the
Letters of reference. Will
you benefit from an additional, optional
recommendation to substantiate a story theme or
'wow' factor, highlight your strengths, or,
possibly, mitigate your weaknesses? Can your
selected recommenders discuss your candidacy in
adequate detail? Be proactive and advise your
recommenders on what
points they need to make to give your applications the best shot. Make sure they
the timeframes for submitting their letters.
If you're applying to graduate programs next year, you need
to take a critical inventory of your candidacy. Will you clear the academic
qualifications hurdles at the schools you are targeting? Would you benefit from
an alternative transcript? Can you find some additional extracurricular
activities that will not cast a perception of expediency to the admissions
Our Graduate School Admissions Timeline
page will be updated on November 1.
Do you have questions about any of
the items you see here? Please call us at 1.800.809.0800
(+1 703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada) or
us if you do. Our consultants can help you with school
selection, application strategies, application and
interview preparation, and all other aspects of the
graduate school admissions process.
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