by Hillary Burgardt
So you want to go to graduate school? Whether you want an M.B.A., M.F.A., M.A., M.Div., or any degree beyond a bachelor’s, the first step will be an application. Applying to grad school is a bit more involved than in undergrad. You will most likely need a résumé/CV, two or more letters of recommendation, a purpose statement, an official transcript from Grace, and possibly a portfolio, writing sample, or interview, depending on your desired program. If you follow three easy tips, then your application process will be significantly less stressful, improving your chances of acceptance.
First: request letters of recommendation from your professors as soon as possible. Many schools have a January or March deadline for graduate school applications for the following fall, but some set them as early as November. At the beginning of your senior year, you should ask your professors for letters so that they have as much time as possible. Make sure to ask nicely; do not just demand a letter or assume that they will write one for you. A professor might be too busy to write a letter, so make sure to have a backup plan. When they agree to write your letters, provide them with all the information the graduate school supplies about them including guidelines, the final deadline, and where to send them. Be sure to profusely thank your professor when he or she finishes the letter.
Second, you might be a senior in college, but you don’t know everything. Do not be afraid to ask for help or advice, especially when it comes to your résumé/CV. A good résumé could make or break your prospects of acceptance. Grace provides career services, so take advantage of that! Email Denise Terry to have her look over your résumé; she would love to help you with any questions you have. You may even ask a professor to read your résumé and purpose statement. They went through this process before, so they know what schools look for.
Third, do not procrastinate! The earlier you apply the better. No one wants to be scrambling to get all their documents together before the deadline, so don’t wait to write that purpose statement or request a transcript. Depending on the school, you may also have a better chance of acceptance if you apply early. If the graduate school you apply to has rolling admissions, then you may have more time, but the longer you wait to finish that application the fewer spots remain available. At some schools, applying at the final deadline might limit your scholarship or housing opportunities. Make sure you check what your prospective school’s policies are!
My final word is “relax.” Remember to breathe and not let the process overwhelm you. If you take my advice, you should have an easier time applying for grad school.