By Dr. Donald C. Martin
Published July 2009
Graduate school applications can be daunting to say the least. From studying for and scoring competitively on the GRE or GMAT, to drafting a witty yet professional personal essay and securing well-written letters of recommendation, there's a lot of effort, energy and time that goes in to applying to grad school. Schools tell you what criteria you're required to submit as part of your application, but they don't always offer advice for how to present it and yourself.
Looking for some guidance? You've come to the right place!
After helping thousands of students through the application maze at a number of prestigious schools, most recently Teachers College at Columbia University, Dr. Donald Martin shares great insider advice for those exploring the idea of going to graduate school. His new book, Road Map For Graduate Study, is written to help you determine if you should attend graduate school, what schools may be right for you and how best to navigate through the maze of the application process.
10 application tips to Navigate the Gradschool Application Maze
1. Follow directions, be truthful, send complete information that you proof-read, and make sure you addressed everything that was asked of you without making excuses.
2. Apply only to the graduate schools you really want to go to – consider school rankings but do not focus on them as the only criteria to determine your list of options.
3. Throughout the process, be calm, assertive and genuine. Be appreciative, say thank you and always smile.
4. Visit the campus of any graduate school you plan to apply to. Apply only when you’re ready to move forward.
5. Include a succinct upbeat cover letter with your application, stating why you are interested in the graduate school and why you hope they will decide to admit you.
6. If you have a strong friendship or professional relationship with a current grad student or recent graduate, ask them to write a letter of recommendation for you.
7. Be creative, but not silly or outlandish. Do whatever you can as an applicant and take advantage of every opportunity provided to let the graduate school know you want to attend.
8. Ask questions that demonstrate you did your homework and are really interested in the graduate school. Don’t ask questions you can easily answer yourself.
9. When deciding where to apply to graduate school, ask yourself if you’ve been treated fairly, determine if you like the culture of the institution and determine what is most important to you in deciding where to apply – is it quality of faculty, size of school, reputation of the graduate program, location, cost, or other factors?
10. The longer you’ve been out of college, the less of a factor your academic record will be. Your recent work experience will be evaluated and you will take your respective standardized test. However, do not take the test more than three times, as submitting test scores that often, can cause the school’s admissions committee to perceive you as desperate, obsessive, or both.
Dr. Donald C. Martin is an expert in the fields of enrollment management, student affairs and higher education administration. From 1980 to 2008 he managed divisions including admissions, financial aid, student development, registration/advising, and career, disabled and international services.