Tips & Strategies:
Graduate School Exams (gmat, gre, lsat, mcat)
Most graduate schools require one of these exams. We recommend that you take at least three months to prepare for these tests, and we strongly encourage you to sign up for a test prep course. These courses are expensive, but definitely worth it. Be sure to check with your employer about any discounts with test prep companies. Check out the links below for the most popular test prep courses:
Attend an Admissions Event
Graduate schools want to know that you are interested in their specific program and one way to demonstrate your interest is by attending one of their admissions events. These events are fantastic opportunities to learn about the culture of the school, meet face-to-face with admissions officers and talk with alumni. Many programs hold events in major cities in the fall. Some schools also host diversity weekends.
We encourage you to visit the university’s campus when considering graduate school. Most admissions offices offer open houses, opportunities to sit in on classes, meet with alumni and much more. You can find this information on the admissions page of any graduate school’s web site. Graduate school is a big investment and you will spend anywhere from one to three years at the school, so be sure to spend time learning about the culture, talking to students and figuring out if this school is a good fit for you. Also, your campus visit will provide you with more insight about the school, which will ultimately help you to write a more meaningful essay about your interest in the program.
Letters of Recommendation
Most graduate school applications require two letters of recommendation. Depending on the program, you’ll need to find either a professional or academic recommender. You should reach out to your recommenders EARLY (3-4 months in advance) and they should be individuals who know you well and can provide specific examples of your experience. Once you’ve identified your recommenders, set up a meeting with them to walk through your application and your interest in the program. You should bring an outline of your experiences that highlight your strengths and provide examples of your accomplishments and contributions.
This is perhaps, the MOST IMPORTANT component of your application. Getting into graduate school is a competitive process, and your essay or statement allows you to differentiate yourself from other applicants. You should plan to spend a significant amount of time writing and editing your essays (at least 3-4 months in advance). Recruit one to two people to read your essays and provide you with candid feedback. Find people who are strong writers (lawyers, English majors, communications professionals, etc.).
Consider your essays an opportunity to talk about your experiences outside of work. Reflect back on your entire life and utilize experiences that have impacted who you are and how you view the world. Be sure to talk about any community or volunteer involvement that you may have as well.
DO NOT write an additional essay just for the sake of having one. Admissions officers read thousands of applications every year, and do not want to read information that you’ve already addressed in your overall application or other essays. If you’re going to write an additional essay, be sure that it truly adds to your application.
Addressing Weaknesses in Your Application
If you have a lower GPA or a low test score and want to address that issue in the additional essay, first check to see if there is an area within the application or short-answer question section to include that information instead. If not, you should write a short, concise paragraph that describes your experience with test taking and what steps you’ve taken to prepare for the respective exam.
You might also consider taking a class at a local college to balance a lower test score or lack of academic work in a specific area. For example, you might consider taking an accounting or finance class if you’re applying for a public policy or business program and you don’t have a strong quantitative background.
If you feel that you have a weakness in a particular area, be sure to counter that weakness by providing examples that demonstrate your competency in another way in your essay. For example, if you don’t have a strong quantitative background, you should describe your analytical abilities through projects that you’ve worked on and/or managed.
As with your essays, you should provide examples to your recommenders that will highlight your competency in another way.
Lack of Community/Volunteer Work
Graduate programs admit students who they are confident will get involved with the campus community. One way of evaluating for this area, is through your current involvement in your own community. If you work an overwhelming amount of hours and don’t have time to get involved with volunteerism, you should get involved with your company’s internal initiatives and/or associations. Most firms sponsor volunteer or community days, and many offer affinity groups around ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc.