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Graduate School Admissions Applications

While much of the graduate school application process is neither intellectually nor mentally challenging, it does demand both organization and perseverance.  Because there are so many parts, only a methodical approach will prevent you from missing something that could jeopardize your candidacy. 

What are the components of graduate school applications?

1.     Application forms

The most obvious component of graduate school applications, the application forms themselves, are not difficult, although they can be tedious.

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Fortunately, most applications are now online.  Electronic applications provide you with quick access to the application materials and, by allowing for on-line submission, reduce the number of items that need to be mailed and then tracked.  Simply go to the admissions section of university websites to find a link to the applications.  You will have to register with each university separately, creating or being given a username and password which you will then have to use each time you wish to enter the site.

Some schools have applications that are more complicated and extensive than others, but if you follow the directions carefully and proceed systematically, you should have no problem.  Here the key is staying organized, so that you can be sure to fill out the applications correctly and in their entirety.  And don’t forget to save frequently, so that you don’t lose and have to re-enter any large chunks of information.

2.    Transcripts

Schools require you to send an official transcript from each college or university you have attended to date.  Transcripts can usually be ordered from your college’s registrar office.  An official transcript is one that bears the institution’s seal and the appropriate signature across the flap.

It is possible to have the registrar’s office send the transcripts to the Office of Graduate Admissions at each school you are applying to.  We, however, recommend that you have the transcripts sent directly to you.  You can then include them along with your other materials in your mailing to each school.  By combining them all into one package in this way, you reduce the likelihood of something getting lost or not arriving.

3.    Supplemental materials: Writing Samples

Many graduate programs require supplemental materials, which usually take the form of writing samples, although they might also include other materials, such as compact discs for music school applicants or portfolios for art school applicants. 

Given our proven belief that successful applications are solid core applications that have been adapted to the specifics of each school, it is important for you to choose your writing samples accordingly.  You must keep in mind what the strengths and weaknesses of that program are and what your overall self-presentation to that school, then choose among your very best writing samples.   Don’t forget, the limitations and expectations of length of these writing samples vary from school to school.

Finally, your writing sample can usually be uploaded directly into your online account at each school. 

4.    Resume

The resume is a relatively minor component, but a component nevertheless.  It does, however, provide you an opportunity to indicate whatever prizes or honors you might have won without appearing to boast.

Since we almost always have more to include on a resume than space permits, you will have to judge what to include and exclude. 

Again, just as you picked the writing sample for each application with each school in mind, in customizing your resume to each school, you should recall your overall self-presentation.

5.    GREs

The GRE General Test is required for most programs, at most schools.  Your scores must be from an examination taken within the last five years.  While the GRE may not land you a place at your school of choice, it can knock you out of the pool of applicants.  Many schools use the GRE as a standard for cross-comparison, setting a score threshold under which applicants will be rejected; professors are busy people and this sort of threshold provides them a way to quickly knock down the number of applicants to a manageable size.  See our GRE19 page for more information and to learn about our approach to test preparation and the dramatic results it has produced.

In addition to the GRE General Test, some departments also require scores from the appropriate GRE Subject Test.  You can usually discover whether or not your department will require a subject test by going to the application or admissions part of their website.

6.    Recommendation Letters

Recommendation letters are a very important part of any graduate school application, with each school requesting between 2 and 3.  Although you don’t control the content, you do have the critical role of choosing who will write your recommendations.

You should only pick those people best qualified to testify to your past academic prowess and your future promise for graduate work.  Moreover, just as you are applying to specific departments, rather than a whole school in general, your best references are likely to come from your major field.  Where this is not possible, be sure to choose someone who nevertheless can attest to your academic potential and qualities germane to academic pursuits in general, and research in particular.

More than any other application component, the recommendations demand the most organizational attention.  If you are applying to 6 schools, you will need to send 18 recommendation forms to 3 different people; you will then need to make sure both that they know where to send the filled-out forms and deliver the recommendations before the various application deadlines.  While online applications have simplified this, not all schools have it and not all professors will be comfortable using online submission.

For recommendations, then, you either mail professors the recommendation forms with stamped and addressed envelopes, which they in turn send to the schools, or you have them upload their recommendations online. 

In the first case, the only thing to keep in mind is to make sure the professors sign the seal of the envelopes once they are prepared to mail them.  In the second case, your recommenders will be emailed the recommendation form and will then email it directly to the school.  The advantage of this second method is that you know whether or not and when a recommendation was sent by checking your application status online.

Here again, you want to get the timing of sending the recommendations such that the schools will not receive them before having received your general application.  The reason for this is, as with the transcript, the writing sample, and the resume, you want the recommendations to be put into your file when they arrive at the school.

Finally, Endeavor believes that it is always a good idea to send your professors your statement of purpose when you mail them the recommendation forms. This way when they write the recommendation, they can speak along with you about your development, your interests, and your capacities.

Endeavor admissions advisors can help you keep organized as well as help you get your recommendations customized.  We have a very effective method of making sure your recommenders know what strengths to emphasize with which schools.  Give us a call, we’re here to help.

7.    Statements of purpose

Statements of purpose are the most time-consuming and important work that you will have to do in applying to graduate school.  For this reason we have a page dedicated to just this component and our approach to helping you craft, correct, and customize your statement of purpose. 

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