Thinking about Graduate School?

By Moira Kolasinsk, Liberal Arts Employment Specialist

I recently attended the Idealist.org Graduate School Fair in San Francisco, and had the opportunity to listen to a panel of admissions representatives from a variety of universities providing advice on how to successfully navigate the application process.  Below are the top 5 tips from the panel:

1. Consider the fit.  Before beginning the application process, think carefully about what’s important to you in a graduate program and develop a ranking system.  Do you want to be in an urban area? Rural?  Is class size important? Access to faculty? Do you need to work while you go to school? If possible, attend information sessions for the programs you’re interested in and meet some of the faculty. Looking at schools out of the area and can’t afford to travel? Contact the program and ask to be connected to current students or alumni who can speak to you about their experience.

2.  Read everything. And then read it again.  Graduate school applications are lengthy and complex. Part of the screening process is to see if you can read carefully and follow instructions, as well as proofread and ensure everything is error-free. You will need to do this in graduate school, so the application is the first step!

3.  A strong statement of purpose is key. Your statement of purpose is your opportunity to convey why you are applying to this program, what you feel you can contribute, and how you feel it will help you to achieve your long term goals.  Help the admissions evaluation committee understand a little more about who you are beyond your transcripts and test scores.

 4. Find strong advocates. Your letters of recommendation help make the case for why you’re a strong candidate. Think carefully about who knows you and the quality of your work, and give them ample time when you request a letter of recommendation.  Help your references out by providing a short statement about why you are applying for this program and samples of work you may have completed, or a copy of your resume.

 5. Ask good questions. You may not have all the prerequisites for the program you’re interested in applying to. Maybe your undergraduate degree isn’t related, or your GPA is a little lower than the minimum. Don’t let this deter you from investigating further.  Contact the admissions office of the program and ask questions – each program is unique in what it considers. The admissions officer may provide perspective on how your situation may be viewed, or how you can balance out what you’re missing.

Whatever you decide about your graduate school applications, remember, the goal of the application is to show how you’re a good fit for that program.  Tailor your application and be certain it recognizes the unique qualities of that school and program and demonstrates how your skills and experience make you a good fit.  For more information and resources about graduate school, check out the Career Center website.

Moira Kolasinski is the Liberal Arts Employment Specialist in the Career Center. She has 5 years of experience working in the field of career development as well as a background in human resources. She works with students in the Colleges of Social Science, Humanities and the Arts and health majors, helping them navigate the job search process and explore careers of interest.

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