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Grad School Guide

Preparing Your Application

  • Make note of application deadlines; don’t be late with your application! If you apply late, your application may be rejected or given a lower priority for review. The admissions committee may question your commitment to graduate studies. On the other hand, if you know that you cannot submit your application on time, contact the admissions administrator(s) at the relevant schools and ask if you can be granted an exception. Having a good explanation for the late submission will help your case.
  • If you encounter a difficulty in completing your application, or have questions about how to complete it, contact the school directly. Many schools have staff members whose job it is to help with these questions.
  • Carefully read the application requirements. Follow the instructions for requesting copies of your transcripts. If the GRE is required, make sure to take the test in time for the scores to arrive at the school with enough time for them to be reviewed (typically by the application deadline).
  • You will probably be asked to submit a curriculum vitae (CV) or resume as part of your application. (A CV is a brief account of your education, qualifications, and previous experience, similar to a resume.) Make sure this document covers all of your important accomplishments. List research experiences, GPA, any papers or presentations that resulted from research, participation in extracurricular activities, leadership roles, etc.
  • If you have published papers, upload their PDFs with your application.
  • Have one of your professors or academic advisors review your application essays.
  • In your personal statement/essay, make sure to mention any adversity you have overcome to get where you are. Be sincere and tell a compelling story about yourself. Everyone wants to read compelling stories–even professors. Don’t be afraid to entertain your readers. To the extent that controversial topics do not demonstrate your values or add to your story, try not to opine about them. Readers of your application may hold different opinions.
  • The personal statement is difficult to write. Combining your personal experiences with your academic/professional aspirations is rarely straightforward. Oftentimes, your personal and academic experiences will feel like they have no overlap. They do. And it is your job to find it and do your best to tell it. You should start early and ask family and friends (who know you very well) for feedback. The personal statement will require a lot of iteration. Don’t place too much emphasis on your first draft. Additionally, if you plan on applying for external fellowships, write those essays first. They tend to provide a great structure for putting your ideas together.