Graduate Education

Making the Most of the Grad School Application Process

Student speaking with a career counselor at Clarkson University

Your grad school application is an opportunity to showcase your successes—and why you’re a good fit for the program and school to which you’re applying.

How can you make the most of that opportunity? In general, by doing many of the same things and taking the same approach that has brought you this far.

  • Start early. Whether you’re wrapping up your undergraduate degree or working full time, chances are your schedule is packed. Even so, it’s important to make the time to prepare a stand-out application. Start by getting organized as soon as possible. Review the application requirements and deadlines, make a list of tasks and break them down into manageable chunks. Focus first on requesting transcripts and letters of recommendation, since they will require outside assistance. Be sure to give registrars’ offices and references plenty of time. While they’re working on your request, turn your attention to other requirements, such as your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) and your personal statement.
  • Create a strong application. Your goal is to use each section of the application to put your best foot forward.
    • Request letters of recommendation from faculty or employers who genuinely know you and can provide examples of your goals, strengths and successes.
    • Hone your resume or CV to highlight educational accomplishments. This is one of the key differences between a resume for a job and one for grad school. Experts recommend that you lead with your education and include information such as awards and scholarships, volunteer leadership, and relevant courses. If you wrote a thesis, consider mentioning the title. Work experience is also important and, most likely, will be the longest section. Be specific about accomplishments and be concise.
    • Craft a personal statement that reflects who you are—and why you and the program are right for each other. What do you bring to the table? Cite some undergraduate or professional successes, what you want next, and how this particular graduate program will help you get there.  Write clearly and keep it brief. Remember, admissions teams have many essays to read. The longer the essay, the more likely it will be skimmed.
  • Be professional. Every piece of your application contributes to the impression that you’re creating. It’s the perfect place to demonstrate that you recognize the importance of following directions, meeting deadlines and paying attention to details. That includes submitting typo-free, grammatically correct materials, so proof carefully. Then proof again—and again.

Above all, be yourself. That will provide the best indication of whether and why you’re the right match for a particular graduate degree program.

If you’re considering Clarkson, be sure to reach out to Graduate Admissions to make that personal connection. If you are a Clarkson undergraduate student, visit the Career Center for help with your application.

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