Although graduate schools often have minimum requirements for both the centralized graduate school and the program to which you are applying, a more accurate predictor of acceptance is how you compare with the average qualifications of the current students in the program.

Keep these factors in mind when considering graduate school:

  • Grade-point average (GPA).  3.0 is often the minimum, but average GPAs of graduate students are often much higher.  Some programs weigh grades in specific courses more heavily; for example, in medical school performance in science prerequisites counts heavily.  Check with each school to ensure you meet their minimum requirements.
  • Test scores.  Test type and score requirements vary by institutions and program.  Typically there are minimum scores you must obtain to be considered, but again, average scores of the students in the program are often much higher.  Some programs place more emphasis on particular sections of the test (for example, quantitative versus verbal).  Other programs use standardized tests to weed out uncommitted applicants.  Be sure to check each program of interest for specifics.
  • Relevant experience.  Experience gained through internships, fieldwork, a practicum, volunteering, shadowing, independent studies, research, and so forth is often a deciding factor.
  • Who you know.  References and effective networking with faculty and staff members can sometimes move your application to the top of the stack.  Look for any opportunity to make contacts at your home institution, at institutions of interest, and in your field of interest.

Tips for Success

Prepare

  • Develop good writing skills and research techniques while you’re an undergraduate and/or an employee.  Keep your eyes open for opportunities to get involved with faculty members’ research.
  • Focus on getting good grades, especially in your last few years of college.  Many graduate programs value recent academic performance for admittance.  Pay special attention to coursework that may be weighed more heavily, like the sciences for health-related programs.
  • Consider taking a test-preparation course or buying a prep book to help study for any required entrance exams if you typically struggle with standardized testing.  But consider your budget—these courses can be very expensive!  See if your local community has an adult education center.  Oftentimes, these courses are much cheaper than some of well-known test prep companies.
  • Study resource guides for writing top-notch personal statements and essays; get your statement critiqued by a career consultant and a professional in your field of interest.
  • Develop and maintain a portfolio, including letters of references, writing samples, and relevant projects.  Consider using a service like Interfolio to store your important materials.

Explore

  • Consult professional publications and associations for information on current trends and desirable skills in your chosen profession.  As a UGA student, you have access to several of these materials through the UGA library.
  • Gain experience in the field; for example, work with a law firm or a policy maker if you are considering a law degree.
  • Set up informational interviews with professionals in the field.

Portions of this website were adapted with permission from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville’s Admission Guide for Graduate School.