Here are our top 10 tips for a successful graduate school admission season.

10. Make sure you are going to graduate school for your own reasons.

A graduate school education is an enormous investment of time and money. Don’t make that commitment unless you’re certain it’s what you want to do.

9. Keep your expectations realistic.

A graduate degree is a not a silver bullet that will guarantee you unlimited career advancement and personal fulfillment.

While some fields require an advanced degree for advancement, but others do not.

However, if one reason you are continuing your education is because you value learning the course material and enjoy what the experience adds to your life, then chances are good you will be look back on your graduate studies in a very positive light.

8. Don’t take your due diligence responsibilities lightly.

There are a bewildering array of degrees and programs available in many fields.

Make sure you understand the differences between the programs and that you’re selecting a program that serves your interests and needs. Visit campuses and talk to students, faculty, alumni and others who are in the field you want to join. (This last step may put you in contact with individuals who achieved the same career goals you have that didn’t go to graduate school!)

7. Think about taking graduate level classes on a non-degree basis.

On occasion, we encourage clients to take advantage of the many colleges and universities that allow students to sign up for a limited number of courses without having to apply for or enroll in a degree program.

This can be an excellent way to gain perspective on the rigors of graduate study. It can also be a good way to demonstrate your interest to the admissions committees as well as your ability to complete graduate-level work.

Furthermore, this can also help you get letters of reference attesting to your intellectual potential, particularly if you have been out of college for a while.

6. Take the standardized test requirements seriously.

There are many good test preparation books and courses available. Don’t hesitate to call us at 1.800.809.0800 (or +1.703.242.5885 outside the US and Canada) if you want to discuss test prep strategies. We’re always happy to help!

While a good test score alone won’t get you into a selective grad school, it will help attest to your ability to clear the program’s academic qualification hurdle. Besides, campus recruiters have been known to inquire about test scores from time to time.

5. Research your target schools carefully.

What is going on at your chosen schools? Is the program physically moving from a suburb to a downtown location? Is a new development in your field of study pulling the program’s focus toward a new direction? How would your experience at this school be different than a similarly ranked institution?

This research will help you make a convincing case to the admissions committee as to why you are a match made in heaven with their program.

4. Refine your elevator pitch.

It is imperative to have a concise and compelling story for success admission to the selective graduate programs. If the admissions committees have any reason to suspect you are going due to chance, you will be dinged very quickly. What has led you to this decision? Life experiences, intellectual curiosity, career ambitions, or something else altogether?

Remember that your story is what must distinguish you from the many other highly qualified applicants.

3. Don’t procrastinate with your applications.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are effective personal statements. (This good news, of course, is that they can be built in much less time than Rome!)

Your personal statement conveys the elevator pitch discussed above. It explains what you represent and why you want to attend their school. In addition to leaving time for reviews and edits, you also need time to ensure you capture all your potential story themes and wow factors and incorporate the proper holistic theme throughout the application, i.e. including the letters of reference, cv/resume, interview if applicable, etc.

Whatever you do, please don’t follow a canned outline or ask someone else to write your statement for you. You can click here if you have any need for further elaboration…

2. Don’t overlook your letters of reference.

Unfortunately, this is often one of the most intimidating aspects of the grad school application process, especially for non traditional applicants who have been out of undergrad for a while.

What do you still need to convey (or even reinforce) to the admissions committee after completing your personal statement? Who can write the credible letters to mitigate your weaknesses and/or highlight your strengths? Above all else, never feel shy or ashamed when it comes to asking recommenders to write letters on your behalf. Keep in mind that it’s actually a compliment to them that you value their perspective and believe an admissions committee will give weight to their letter.

1. Kick back and relax!

Once everything has been submitted (and you’ve confirmed its receipt of course), the proverbial ball is out of your hands.

Unless you have upcoming interviews to prepare for, do yourself a favor and find an activity to take your mind off the pending admission decisions. If you follow these top ten tips – and have a bit of luck – you will hopefully soon be choosing from multiple offers and steaming full speed ahead toward achieving your educational goals and ambitions!

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