Graduate School Application: Tips, Advice, and Warnings

Applying to graduate school is similar to when you applied for college: myriad forms, visits, test scores, deadlines, and so on — but there are differences. Keep these tips, warnings, and words of advice in mind as you apply to graduate school.

  • Submit official transcripts from all the colleges you attended — even if you took only one course there in a summer program.

  • Some schools waive the application fee if you apply online, so be sure to check that out, particularly if you're applying to several schools. Fees can add up quickly!

  • When applying to some graduate programs, you apply directly to the academic division, not to the university admission office. For example, grad school candidates in biology apply to the biological sciences division. Be sure you note carefully where your application is to be submitted.

  • Deadlines are just as important for graduate school admission. But they are often quite different in different schools. For example, one grad school requires applications in January for a fall admission, but another doesn't need it until May. Again, be sure to check the school's Web site and literature.

  • Graduate programs are just as competitive as undergraduate programs, so be sure to work with an advisor on selecting the right programs and schools to apply to.

  • Admissions professionals consider you to be a responsible adult. That means they do not tolerate missing information, errors, poorly written personal statements, or letters of recommendation that are anything less than stellar. So be certain you double- and triple-check spelling and grammar when reviewing your statement.

When selecting people to write a recommendation letter, be sure they know that letters must be glowing and cannot show any weaknesses; otherwise, your admission is jeopardized. Most advisors, professors, and supervisors understand that. But they probably won't mind the reminder.