The graduate school application usually consists of some or all of the following:
- Application Form
- Application Fee
- Admission Essay/Personal Statement
- Official Transcripts
- Letters of Recommendation
- Entrance Exams
- Interview and Campus Visit (not always required)
Most programs will not review an application until it is complete, and probably will not review it at all if anything is late—so start early! Always have a copy of all your application materials in case items get lost. That way you will always be ready to fax/mail missing information. Also, be sure to call to confirm the receipt of all your materials, and record the date and the name of the person you speak with. Make sure you are polite and courteous even if a mistake is made on the institution’s part—Remember your fate is in their hands.
Use this information below to keep track of all your deadlines and materials throughout the application process!
Get the appropriate application form as soon as you know you are interested in a program. The form is often available online or you can request a paper copy from the school. The form is composed of standardized questions that the program will use to track your application and ensure that you meet minimum qualifications. Your answers to the questions should be clear, consistent, accurate and typed.
Be sure to use your full legal name on all pages. If you have changed your name since you completed your undergraduate degree, it might be useful to list your former name as well. It is likely that your undergraduate transcripts will list your former name and you want to make sure that none of your materials are lost or disregarded.
Remember: most programs receive many applications and may be looking for quick ways to eliminate applicants. A small error or an unprofessional-looking application may be all they need to send yours to the bottom of the stack.
You should plan to have approximately $300 to $500 available, as application fees can be as much as $100 per school. These fees are typically not refundable, so do your research and be fairly certain of your interest in a school before applying. Some schools will issue fee waivers; however, this is not a common practice. To find out more information about application fees and fee waivers, speak individually with your schools to inquire about their policies.
Graduate schools often ask for resumes/cvs—or at least a list of experiences—to consider in addition to your GPA and test scores as admissions criteria. A resume for graduate school application is essentially the same as for a job search; however, it’s a good idea to structure the resume to highlight the skills and qualifications that would be valued in a particular graduate program, such as research experience, related jobs or activities, and so forth.
An “official” transcript bears the university’s seal and the signature of its registrar. You must order these and usually pay a small fee for each one. You can order University of Georgia official transcripts by contacting the registrar’s office at http://www.reg.uga.edu/or.nsf/html/transcripts. Just about every graduate program requires an official transcript from every post-secondary institution you have attended, even if you took only one course at an institution. Contact the registrar’s office at other schools for official transcripts from those schools.
A well-written recommendation can often be a deciding factor, especially if you have any weak spots in your qualifications. You will typically be asked for two or three recommendations, but the number required varies from school to school. Recommendations may be submitted online or in paper form.
When you are deciding, consider individuals who know you well and can vouch for your academic, professional and/or research abilities. Suggestions for references include:
- Professors in your field who know you well and can vouch for your academic and/or research abilities. Build these relationships early so that they can report on more than just grades.
- Supervisor/boss in your field, preferably someone with an advanced degree, who has worked with you through an internship or job.
- Advisor from a student organization who knows your work style
NOTE: Using family members, members of the clergy, and politicians as recommenders is strongly discouraged. Not only are their comments less relevant to your academic qualifications, they can actually be detrimental to your case.
Remember that you are asking recommenders for the favor of their time and effort, so treat them with care and consideration. Keep these pointers in mind:
- Identify potential recommenders early. Visit professors during office hours, get involved in research or community service projects and have conversations with supervisors about your career goals.
- Your recommenders are busy. Start asking for recommendations well before your deadline. This typically means you need to be lining up recommenders in the early fall if you plan to attend graduate school in the fall of the next year. Even if you plan to take a year or so off after graduate school, go ahead and get the letters while your recommenders are still accessible to you and you are fresh on their minds. Consider using an online database like Interfolio to store your important documents.
- Schedule an appointment with each potential recommender to talk about how your chosen program aligns with your career goals and why you think you are a good candidate. This just may spark their memory about some positive things they can write about you.
- Give them the list of schools you are applying to, instructions for sending the letter, the recommendation form (if the desired program requires it), the deadline for receipt of the letters, your contact information, and any pertinent information that will help them write an appropriate letter. Include your personal statement and resume to help jog their memories.
- If you notice that a person you asked for a recommendation seems hesitant, move on to an alternate. You do not want to run the risk of submitting a poor recommendation.
Most schools require your scores on at least one standardized test for admission. Meeting minimum test score requirements does not guarantee admission. For insight into hidden requirements, find the “average” test scores of people admitted to the program you are interested in.
Types of standardized tests:
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General and Subject test—most commonly required by many academic programs (Masters and Doctoral degrees).
- Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)—MBA and other management programs,
- Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
- Medical Admission Test (MCAT)
- Dental Admission Test (DAT)
- Optometry Admission Test (OAT)
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)—English proficiency test for international students,
- Miller Analogies Test (MAT)—Accepted by a variety of graduate programs,
Tips for preparing to take entrance tests:
- Prepare for and take the test early! For some tests, your scores are good for five years, so plan ahead and take the test when you have a significant amount of time to devote to studying. In addition, you may need to retake the test if you are not satisfied with your scores.
- Take a test-preparation course or buy a prep book if you typically struggle with standardized testing. Kaplan, Princeton Review and Peterson’s are very well known for their test preparation classes and books; however, be considerate of your budget—these courses can be very expensive! For a low cost option, see if your local community has an adult education center with preparation courses. If you are in Athens, try the Georgia Center
- Register early! Testing centers often fill up in the time period immediately preceding graduate admissions deadlines. There are no registration deadlines for some computer-based tests (GRE General and Written Assessment, GMAT), but registration is first come, first served. Certain tests such as the MCAT and LSAT are only offered a few times a year. Check with each testing organization to verify their policies. Special accommodation for students with disabilities can be arranged with prior notice.
NOTE: It is not advisable to take these tests “cold” for practice or to see how you will do. Some programs, especially law schools, average all your test scores together for evaluation.
You may find the admissions committee for your prospective program, especially medical schools, will want to meet with you in person to discuss your goals and your fit with their program.
Don’t panic; just call (706) 542-3375 to schedule a mock interview with your career consultant. Do this early so that you have time to process your consultant’s suggestions and possibly do a follow-up mock interview. For more information, visit http://gradschool.about.com/cs/interviews/a/admint.htm.
Plan to visit your top choices if you can. While you are there, talk with admissions, faculty, and other students to gain a better understanding of how the program fits your criteria. Sit in on a class, if possible, and visit the community to gain a feel for the surrounding areas.
Contact the program in advance to determine if they offer a formal visitation or if they can help you plan your informal visit. Remember that while you might only be there to gather information about their program, they will also have the chance to evaluate you, so be professional and prepared at all times.
Portions of this website were adapted with permission from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville’s Admission Guide for Graduate School and from the Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab.