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Graduate School Admissions Considerations

At Endeavor Tutoring and Test Preparation, we like to break down the process of applying to graduate school into four successive phases:

I.             The Two Searches: Soul-Search & Research

So, you are interested in applying to graduate school?  If you haven’t already done so, you should begin preparing for the GREs.  Choose a date and register yourself for the test.  Having a deadline on paper will prevent procrastination and allow you to come up with a study plan.  Remember, certain graduate departments require GRE subject tests, in addition to the general math, verbal, and writing GRE.  See our GRE page for information about our proven method of GRE test prep.

Once your GRE prep is underway, you might assume your ready to start your application.  Not quite yet!  Before you can begin writing your application, you need to know specifically which universities and programs you will be applying to, which means you need to have a fairly refined idea of what you want.

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While the length of the application process might incline you to get started as early as possible, it’s best to know where you want to go, what you want to do, and who you want to do it with before you start in on the application itself; you don’t want to waste your energy taking unnecessary detours, so set aside some time for thought: ruminate in your favorite chair or talk with a family member, a friend, a teacher, or an Endeavor admissions advisor; this early thinking will pay enormous dividends down the road.

In this phase, some questions need answering: Why do you want to go to graduate school?  What do you hope to accomplish by going to graduate school?  What is it specifically that you want to study?  Is your interest a specific topic, a theme, or an entire field? 

Once your soul-searching has yielded some results, begin researching departments and programs that best cater to your academic aims.  Even if you don’t have a full-fledged research proposal in mind, you are now prepared to begin some profitable research.  Don’t worry about mapping out your graduate studies down to the last detail; the research process will help you bring your academic goals into focus and allow you to better articulate them. 

If you don’t know where to begin, ask a professor or someone knowledgeable about your field for suggestions of schools that might suit you.  Perhaps a current or former teacher of yours will know of a professor doing work on something very close to your own interests. 
Go to the websites of the universities that have struck your interest: Here you will be able to see the structure of master’s and doctoral programs, review courses that are being given, read the biographies and C.V.s of professors that teach there, and sometimes even examine what the graduate students there are doing.

With your preliminary research completed and your GRE preparation underway, you should have a tentative list of schools you intend to apply to.  With the aid of an Endeavor advisor, you will now be able to refine your list by crafting a strong application hedge through a careful selection of core, safety, and reach schools. Congratulations! This final list represents the end of phase I.  

II.           Application Preparation

Now begins the applications.  You will need to access the application for each school you are applying to.  There is no graduate school equivalent of the common application, since you will be applying to a program, as much as to a given university.  Well versed in both paper and the increasingly popular on-line applications, our Endeavor advisors can help you locate the applications and extract a list of tasks that you will have to accomplish.

Without getting into the details of the applications themselves, which you can find on the next page, Endeavor Tutoring and Test Preparation will let you in on a graduate school application secret….

Here at Endeavor, we have found it not only informative, but also advantageous for our clients to contact professors at the universities they are interested in.  We recommend that you contact professors in the programs to ask them questions.  Even if you don’t really have any questions or are not so interested in the questions you are asking, it is a good idea to get your name out there circulating around the program, since graduate applicant deliberations are not conducted like undergraduate admissions.  College admissions decisions are made by the college’s admissions office, graduate school admissions decisions are made by a group of professors from the department you applied to.

So how would this work?  Let’s say George begins a correspondence with Professor Smith, who has an endowed chair in the Sociology Department at Yale University.  Then, when admissions decisions are being made, Professor Smith might say, “Oh, I think this fellow contacted me earlier this year.”  Getting your name out there leads decisions makers more likely to think (a) that you are really interested in the program and (b) that you know what the program is about.  Why does this work?  Whenever a choice needs to be made between two seemingly equal choices, it our nature to lean toward the option we have prior positive knowledge about.

Like the idea, but don’t know how to execute it?  Then give us a call.  Endeavor admissions advisors understand how these emails should be phrased and framed; they can help you make your politicking tasteful and subtle.

III.                Application Execution

You have finally submitted your applications, mailed your signed and sealed transcripts, and released your GRE scores.  Time to relax, right?  Not quite yet.  The materials may no longer be in your hands, but this doesn’t mean that they have arrived where they belong.  While you can now afford a little break, you need to check and make sure that the schools you applied to have received all of the materials.  You can do this online for many schools, although for others you will have to call the department’s admissions spokesperson.  Remember, even if you did everything on your end, if a professor forgets to mail a recommendation your entire application might be rejected.  Only by checking can you recognize that something is missing and get another copy to the school before the deadline.

Phase III ends when you know all of your applications have arrived completed.  Now it’s time for a little celebration.  The baton has passed from you to Fate.

IV.                Results Management

So, you’ve heard back from all of your schools and have been admitted everywhere.  With roles now reversed, it’s your turn to deliberate on what school you will accept!  Most programs have admitted students days and some will even put you up in a hotel and defray your transportation costs.  It’s a good idea to go on these visits, since it gives you the opportunity to speak with professors, current graduate students, and your potential classmates.

There are a number of things to keep in mind as you prepare to make your final decisions, and our Endeavor admissions advisors know what they are.  They know the tough and unobvious questions that you should really ask about programs you are considering.  For example, it is important for you to find out each school’s time to completion, completion rate, and placement statistics.

After some serious deliberation with the facts, it is finally time to choose.

You have arrived at the finish line.  Your decision has been made. Endeavor wishes you a brilliant education, followed by an equally star-studded career.  Congrats!  You’ve earned it.

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