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
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.