Basic Requirements for Grad School

Applying for graduate school is similar to applying for college, only the graduate school admittance committee is looking for a more experienced, learned student. The stakes are higher, but the admissions requirements are very similar.

In particular, the graduate school will most likely review the following:

  • Your undergraduate grade point average (GPA) and your transcript. The committee will look at what courses you took, whether you showed improvement over your school career, whether your course work has any gaps or holes, and whether your course work shows planning for your specific career.

  • Your scores on the GRE or other grad school entry exam. You can find a variety of test preparation material ranging from an expensive, intense study course to preparation books to sample examples. While you may not need the intense study course, you should look into some preparation work so that you know what to expect.

  • Your participation in other activities. Were you involved in clubs or activities related to your major? Did you participate in any research? Did you do any mentoring or volunteering? Did you participate in an internship?

  • Your statement or essay. Usually you express your thoughts on why you want to pursue this degree and also explain the skills you have. Make sure to look at all activities and cast them as positives. For instance, if you were the events planner for your fraternity, include this experience, even if it's not directly related to your major. (If that's the case, focus on the skills: planning large events, maintaining a schedule, managing people, and so on.)

  • Letters of recommendation. In your undergrad years, you should have been encouraged to network, volunteer, find a mentor, and get an internship. All of this work pays off when you can easily find relevant people who will write glowing letters of recommendation.

Keep in mind that the admittance committee is looking for candidates to admit to the graduate program — not exclude. You have the power to improve your own standings in each of the basic requirements. Present yourself and your accomplishments as a total and persuasive package.