Career Development: Grad School Application Best Practices

By Purnell T. Cropper | November 22, 2011

By Fallon McAnany, Career Development Graduate Assistant

Applying to graduate school can be an intimidating process. One method in staying organized is to keep a spreadsheet that indicates each school in which you plan to apply, and record important due dates, when materials were mailed/uploaded, contact information, and addresses. But how should you get started? After you’ve narrowed down the programs and schools in which you would like to apply, start a basic Excel Spreadsheet of program-related information. Browse each school’s website and note all the components that are necessary for the application to be complete. Becoming familiar with the names and contact information of faculty members within the program and a representative from admissions can also aid in receiving the most appropriate and up-to-date information about the application process.

Once all the important information and deadlines are recorded for each school on your spreadsheet, get started on submitting the required materials. The application is the easiest part; references and essays take the most time. Ask your references well in advance. They are busy people and you want them to have enough time to write a well-thought response that best represents you and your skills. Some schools require your references to fill out a specific form. Print out the form and provide an addressed and stamped envelope. Some schools request the email addresses of your references in order to send the forms without your involvement. If this is the case, inform your references beforehand to look for emails of this nature in their inbox. If you are applying to several schools, try to give all the necessary materials to your references at one time so that they can complete everything at once if they so desire.

The essay, or personal statement portion of the application process is extremely important in demonstrating yourself as professional and a good fit for a specific program based on your knowledge, skills, and experiences. Do not leave this to the last minute, but thoughtfully use this as an opportunity to share your goals and passion for a particular field. Be able to speak to why the particular program at that school interests you and your motivation behind pursuing it. Each school has different essays for each program, so individualize each essay to show that you have compared programs and that this particular program can offer you things that other programs lack. Career Development here at Arcadia can help with any questions regarding graduate school application best practices. Schedule an appointment to discuss how to best organize and tackle the process.