No matter how long it’s been since you applied to college last, chances are you can probably still remember the entire process. Who could forget the time-consuming hassle that college applications tend to be? If you’re thinking about going to grad school now, prepare yourself for a similar process.
Grad school applications involve standardized tests, essays, and letters of recommendation. They can often take more effort and time, so getting started early is essential to prevent last-minute panic. Thankfully, although applying to grad schools can be quite a tedious time-consumer, you’ll probably already be familiar with the process.
To help make applying to graduate school a smoother process, this guide shows you the must-know steps on how to get into grad school.
Step 1: Start Making Your Grad School Lists
One of the very first steps when it comes to applying to grad school is to make lists of all the institutions and programs you are interested in. For some, this step can be skipped — especially if they already know exactly what they want. However, if you are still unsure, this step might help you figure out a direction.
Create a list of at least nine programs/schools you like. Separate them into three categories:
- Dream schools are some of the best and most competitive programs out there. Getting in would be a dream come true, but temper your expectations so you don’t get heartbroken if you aren’t able to secure admission.
- Safety schools are those you feel you have an extremely high chance of getting accepted. That doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the programs’ quality, of course.
- Target schools are much like safety schools where you have a relatively good chance of getting in. However, these are the schools that have programs you are more interested in (compared to safety schools).
Step 2: Put Together Requirements Lists
Once you’ve got your grad school lists, the next step is to put together a list of all the requirements you’ll need to accomplish for your applications. Fortunately, as you start putting together lists from every school, you’ll probably notice that many of the requirements overlap. To make things easier for you to track, make a table, spreadsheet, or checklist of all the requirements for each school.
Thanks to the many overlapping requirements, the process of putting together many of your grad school applications becomes much faster all around. Even your personal statements can have some overlap. You can start with a well-written and edited template for your statement, but it’s always a good idea to personalize them for each application so you can potentially make a better impression on the admissions departments.
Step 3: Take the Required Standardized Tests
Many graduate schools do require applicants to have some standardized test scores submitted with their applications. It’s a good idea to note the required GMAT or GRE scores for each school you intend to apply to so you have scores to reach for.
Next comes the test prep. Schedule your exams and start studying for them. You can self-study or find GMAT/GRE prep courses that can help you prepare. There are many free GRE prep tests online, as well.
Give yourself ample time to take your exams and leave enough room for a retake just in case you need one to improve your scores!
Step 4: Prepare All the Requirements
Once you’ve taken the exams and gotten scores with which you are satisfied, it’s time to put all your applications together. Make sure you have enough time to actually get everything done, as many of the requirements can take some time to arrange.
- Make sure you send transcripts from your previous college or university.
- Spend plenty of time working on your personal statements and making sure it is well-edited. Seek some feedback from people you trust.
- Allot enough time (at least a couple of months) for your letters of recommendation. You’ll most likely need three per school. Give your recommender plenty of time and give them gentle nudges here and there.
Step 5: Look for Financial Aid
Once you are accepted (or even before), you’ll most likely notice that paying for grad school out of pocket can be a massive financial burden. Check to see if financial aid is available for your program and start working towards securing some for yourself. Look for fellowships, scholarships, or grants.
Wrapping Up: Make Sure to Give Yourself Plenty of Time!
Putting together your graduate school applications can take months. As you start making plans, make sure that you are providing yourself with enough time to complete all of the requirements. Don’t forget to account for enough time for your recommenders to write letters for you — they’re doing you a favor, after all!