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Preparing for Graduate School Information

Applying to Graduate School

Start Early: Most application deadlines fall between January 1st and February 15th - keep track of the deadlines.

Money: You will need to pay for the GRE tests, having the scores sent to the schools, application fees, transcripts, and postage. This can easily cost hundreds of dollars if you're applying to several schools, so be prepared.

How Many?: If you are certain that you want to go to graduate school, you should apply to several programs, across a range of selectivity. Include some long shots as well as "safety schools" that would be likely to offer you admission.

The Personal Statement: Most application forms require you to provide a personal statement. You should highlight your research experience, and emphasize how you fit into the program you are applying to. This is very important. Consider tailoring the statement for specific programs. You should address any oddities in your record (such as a disastrous first year in college), but make sure that you stress your strengths.

There are things you should not say. Don't ramble on about how you want to save mankind, or how curious you were as an infant, or how you would have gone to medical school if you had gotten in somewhere. Even if any of this is true, don't include it.

Have someone (not your roommate) proofread your statement. Even better, have your advisors or letter writers review it - they know what a personal statement should look like.

Supporting Materials: You may choose to include papers with your application. This allow you to demonstrate your commitment to research, and that you know how to write. Ideally, you will have preprints of articles describing research you've been involved with. If not, consider including a copy of a class research paper.

What to do if You're Contacted: If a faculty member calls you, be prepared. Keep a list of questions by the phone so you won't become tongue-tied and come across poorly. The caller may not be from your top choice school, but not matter what, be enthusiastic. Ask about things like stipends and how long students take to complete their degrees.

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Last Updated: 1/23/12