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Applying to Graduate School

The Application Process

Most people begin the application process 1 1/2 years before the graduate school start date. Generally, application deadlines for fall semester are between January and March; however, some programs have early decision programs or rolling admissions policies. Check with each prospective school's program for official deadlines.

Email or call the graduate school admissions office or specific program office for program information. Explore the possibility of an assistantship. Review financial aid materials and resources through the financial aid office of the graduate school, the program department, and other grant funding sponsors.

In a few professional fields, there are national services that provide assistance with some part of the application process. Examples of these services are the Law School Data Assembly Service (LSDAS) and the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS).

Admission Requirements

It is important to know all admission requirements for each school of interest. Requirements vary considerably for each school and program. Read each program's requirements carefully.

Graduate Admission Tests
Colleges and graduate programs may require a specific graduate admission test. These scores are used, along with other supporting information, to assess a student's ability to succeed in the program.

A transcript of undergraduate grades is a requirement for admission to graduate/professional programs. GPA, the rigor of your courses, and the reputation of the undergraduate institution is a strong indicator of a student's ability to complete graduate work and is considered carefully by admission committees. Official copies of transcripts can be obtained by contacting Blugold Central.

Interviews for graduate/professional school are often required by programs. An interview is an important opportunity to discuss skills, abilities and experiences. Prepare for a graduate school interview like a job interview.

Portfolio and Auditions
Many graduate programs involving visual creativity such as art, architecture, creative writing and environmental design may require a portfolio as part of the application. The portfolio should demonstrate skills and ability to do work in a particular field, using examples reflecting the scope of completed training and experience.

Like a portfolio, the audition is a demonstration of skills and talent, and it is often required by programs in music, theater, and dance. For a performance major, the audition is perhaps the most important element of the graduate application.

Parts of an Application

Application Form

The actual application form should be filled out clearly and should be professional in appearance. Follow directions carefully and be consistent in spelling your full, legal name on all forms.

Statement of Purpose
The statement of purpose is an important part of the application because it gives the faculty assessing the application a distinct impression of the graduate program candidate. The application review team will assess writing ability, educational and professional goals, interests, and qualities. Tailor the statement to specific programs; requirements vary, but all will be interested in motivation, commitment and interest in the specific graduate program.

Letters of Recommendation
Faculty members are excellent sources for letters of recommendation, and some professional programs also consider non-academic recommendations from professionals in the field. Some programs may require a specific type of reference (e.g. undergraduate adviser). Check the requirements of each school.