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Graduate School Application Process


Review and keep careful track of all application requirements and deadlines (these will vary from school to school). Be sure to complete all required applications.  Some universities ask for an application to the graduate school office as well as another application to the specific graduate program.

Solicit letters of recommendation from those who know you and your abilities well. Most programs require at least three to sometimes five letters of recommendation. Your recommenders may be professors, research supervisors, or former employers depending on the type of graduate program you pursue.

If standardized test scores are part of the admission process, determine exactly which exams are requires (e.g. GRE General, GRE Subject, LSAT, MCAT). Register well before the application deadline, ideally giving yourself time to retake the test(s) if necessary.

Be aware that some schools will not begin to review your application until all of your materials are in, including your application, one of more essays or a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, test scores, if required, all academic transcripts, and perhaps a resume or CV. Make sure to track your application materials carefully.

Apply early. Many schools operate on rolling admissions, which means that they continually evaluate applicants and admit them. So, if you apply after this process has begun, the number of openings available to you is smaller. Compile your documents and submit the complete package in a timely way, well ahead of the deadline.

You can often improve your chances of grad school admission by identifying and corresponding with graduate school faculty who are doing cutting-edge work in the field that interests you. Write to those professors and tell them that you are interested in their work, and that you plan to apply to their program. You can mention your specific areas of interest and possible research topics. Send them a copy of your thesis or research papers and tell them that you’d like to work for them if you are accepted. In many instances, faculty with whom you have networked will advocate on your behalf to the program admissions committee.

Graduate School Exams

Review the test information for the appropriate exam and determine whether you want to take a preparation course or just study for the test on your own. There are study guides and workbooks available in the CDO Career Resource Library, but you will probably want to purchase one to use as you prepare. Be sure that you take the appropriate exam well in advance so that your programs will receive your scores before application deadlines.

Graduate School: The Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Business School: The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

Medical School: Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

Law School: Take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

Personal Essays

Your graduate admissions essay or statement of purpose is the heart of your application. It describes your intellectual interests and career goals. It highlights your academic background and work experience. It explains your interests in this particular program and details possible research interests. Your essay also gives a sense of who you are and fleshes out your potential as a student and as a professional in the field.

Many resources are available to assist you in writing your personal essay.  Use the Career Access Resource Library (CARL) online database to search for publications in the Career Resource Library as well as on the Web.  Essay writing workshops are also offered every year on campus, and it is helpful to get feedback from a career counselor, faculty, and your advisor.


All graduate and professional programs/application services require official transcripts from EVERY post-secondary institution you have attended. Contact the registrar’s office early; allow at least four weeks for your request(s) to be processed by the schools you attended and sent to the recipients. A nominal fee is usually charged for transcript requests.

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