As you consider graduate study and begin the process of developing your application be sure to check admission and application requirements carefully. Below are some general guidelines for preparing your application:
Standardized Tests: Be sure you give yourself enough time to prepare for a standardized test. Scores are generally valid for 3 to 5 years. If there are multiple entrance exams related to your intended field, always check with the schools to which you are applying to make sure you are taking the required exam.
Letters of Recommendation: Most graduate programs require three letters of recommendation but be sure to check each school’s application requirements. Don't leave the college without one letter of recommendation from a professor in your credential file. Stop at the reception desk at the CPD to open a credential file.
Who you ask is as important as how you ask. The author of your letter should know you, think well of you and be able and willing to write thoughtfully about your application. When you ask a professor or employer to write you a letter of recommendation, give them ample time the more the better. Next, furnish them with information: a transcript, an example of your class work, an updated resume and a draft of a personal statement/essay on why you are intending to pursue graduate work will enable a professor to write a more substantial letter. In similar fashion, outline any accomplishments, work projects or promotions for an employer you have asked to write your recommendation.
Transcripts: You can arrange to have your transcript sent to graduate schools through the registrar's office. If you took classes at other institutions or studied abroad you will need to contact these programs to request an official transcript be sent to your graduate schools.
Personal Statements: The manner in which you express your experience and portray your motivations in an essay can have a major impact on the final outcome. Reflect upon what you have learned from your experiences; the narrative should reveal your values and personal attributes through the telling of your story and your individual journey. It should express your professional goals, academic interests and research experience. Schools will be interested in your potential as scholar, colleague, professional and alumna/us. Think of this as an interview or pre-interview, programs would be interested to know what you want to study and why (career goals), what you’ve done to prepare you for this graduate study (skills) and why the particular program is a good fit. Convey what you can do for the program and field of study versus what their program can do for you. Bottom-line, personal statements and essays always ask the writer to ‘tell us about yourself’ and a good way to view this is as a thoughtful snapshot of who you are and what you bring to the table. There is no one correct way to do this. Impeccable spelling and grammar are a given. Once drafted, CPD counselors and BMC writing center staff can help you. Don’t underestimate this part of your application.
Resume/CV: Be sure to include a current and well organized resume or CV in your application. While you have an opportunity to discuss your experience, academic background and career goals in your essays, the resume helps the admissions committee to easily review and summarize your experience. It is a given that perfect construction and spelling are a must.
Interviews: Some graduate schools require or offer an optional interview. Similar to a job interview, an admissions interview gives you the chance to highlight your accomplishments, skills and abilities, strengths and personal qualities.
Application Cycle: While application deadlines for many graduate and professional schools fall between January and March, many programs have a rolling admission policy. This means that they will begin to review applications early on and begin to make decisions even before the official deadline. You are always at slight advantage if you apply at least a month before the deadline or earlier. Make sure that all of your materials are received. Schools will not review an application until it is complete.
The best way to improve your chances of admission to graduate or professional school is to prepare your application 6 months to a year in advance. Know what the requirements are and thoughtfully review where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Talk to graduate students and people who have earned the degree to assess whether this is the path you want to take. As you look at different programs consider size, geographic area, accessibility to faculty, resources, internship/field work and full time opportunities and the overall learning environment.
Take advantage of the counseling and advising resources at CPD. If you are pursuing a Ph.D., it is extremely important to discuss to discuss your goals with your professors. Besides writing letters of recommendation, faculty can provide insightful advice on how to present your academic interests and research plans in your application.
Paying for graduate or professional school education: If you are pursuing a Ph.D. many graduate programs award assistantships which will cover your tuition as well as provide a small stipend for teaching or research. If you have excelled academically, you may be eligible for prestigious fellowships such as the Mellon and National Science Foundation. It is more challenging to find scholarships for Masters programs, so most students need to take out loans. Check www.fastweb.org for more information.