Applying for graduate studies can be less complicated, but just as time-consuming and difficult as applying for undergraduate studies. Here is some advice.
- Research your school beyond the websites.
Try to find information on specific programs, professors and unique qualities of the program you are interested. You want to demonstrate you know the program well. If you cannot visit the school, try to find people who have been there. You can contact the school to ask to speak to a current student or alum. They can give you insider’s perspective and help you prove your genuine interest.
- Choose your field carefully.
Applications are reviewed by the faculty in the area in which you have expressed an interest. It is advantageous to indicate an area of interest that the school wants to develop. Choose one with good funding, and preferably a professor/faculty with funding for a project that corresponds to your interest .
- Contact a professor you’d like to work with
This is very important to do about a month or so before you apply. Tell them you are considering applying, and you’re curious about the research opportunities available in the field. Comment intelligently on some research that faculty member has done. Mention any relevant research or job experience.
- Try to find information on the school outside the program as well.
This can help build a case for why you and that program are well-matched. Visit schools at least once if possible and reach out to make meaningful connections in those programs. Highlighting specific programs, clubs, courses, and individuals in your essays and interviews makes your interest in a program more credible and convincing.
- Keep emails brief and to the point.
Professors and staff have hundreds of emails and applications to read. They appreciate brevity. You can use bullet points. Send a short follow-up email in December/January after you apply to let them know you have applied. They will most likely remember you.
- Show how you compare as an applicant.
It is good to show you are similar and at the same time different from the other applicants. If you can show you have similarities with other graduate students, you can show you can be a good fit. It’s also advantageous to be different from other applicants. This is not easy to do. If you know someone from that school, you can talk about that person, assuming he or she had a good reputation. Another way to do it is to carefully ask the admissions departments to speak with current students and alumni of the departments you’re applying to. In your personal statement you can use these points and also point out ways you are exceptional and stand out.
- Put up a personal/research home page.
Make it professional. Highlight any interesting projects you’ve worked on there. Remove all references to your political and/or religious preferences. (Clean up your Facebook/Twitter profile, too.)
- Make a comprehensive plan to prepare for your admissions test.
Even the best of personal statements cannot ensure your admission if your test results are very weak. For many graduate programs, GRE scores are the primary determinant of grants – scoring higher on the test could mean you go to grad school for free. In the case of business school, more than half of admissions officers identify the GMAT as the most important factor in an application, and it’s one that top scorers spend over 100 hours preparing to take.