Applying to Graduate School

Once you have identified the schools to which you would like to apply, it is important to understand each program’s admission process. (for some recommendations on how to identify graduate programs, see our Finding Graduate Programs page link -- if you would like to learn more about how to identify the programs to apply to, visit here.] Generally, it is better to apply early. Some graduate programs will review applications as they are received, in which case applying early may increase your chances of admission. Keep in mind that deadlines and application instructions are non-negotiable. Applications received after the date they are due may well be disregarded, and personal statements and/or writing samples that do not adhere to guidelines may similarly be rejected.

Some schools will require you to submit an application to both the program and to the school.
It is likely that the following materials will be a part of your graduate school application:

  • Transcript: Carefully check program requirements, and talk to the school directly if you have questions about prerequisites.
  • GPA: Although it usually is given as a guideline, knowing the mean GPA of previously admitted classes can give you an idea of your chances of admission.
  • Graduate tests (GRE, GMAT, MCAT, etc.): Be sure you clearly understand program requirements well in advance so that you have time to prepare for, and take, the necessary tests for admission.
  • References: Programs may require two or three recommendations. Decide early who you would like to ask, offer to meet with them to review your qualifications and goals, and follow up.
  • Personal statement: Many programs use a personal statement as a way of gauging your interest, background, skills, and long-term goals. The personal statement often takes the place of an interview, so take care when considering how best to present yourself, and always proofread for mistakes.
  • Writing samples: Read the guidelines to find the writing sample requirements for different schools. Generally, you want to supply the program with a relevant piece of writing that showcases your strengths.


Most graduate programs require an admission test. You can often prepare for these through the test Web site, practice books, or a course (offered by The Princeton Review, Kaplan, and similar organizations). The most common include:

  • The GRE, which is a general admissions test. It is computer-based and is given at centers around the world. Make an appointment at the GRE Web site.
  • The GMAT is the required admission test for MBA programs. Learn more at the GMAT Web site.
  • The MCAT is a part of the admissions process for medical school. MCAT subject areas include verbal reasoning, physical sciences, writing, and biological sciences.
  • The LSAT is the required admission test for most law schools. Learn more at the Law School Admissions Council Web site or make an appointment with Victoria Turco Career Education Center’s pre-law advisor.


You will also want to spend a fair amount of time considering your personal statement, which is required for most graduate school applications. Keep the following personal statement tips in mind:

  • Some programs may ask for a personal statement, statement of purpose, or a more specific essay question. Read the prompt carefully and be sure to address each school specifically.
  • Keep to the prescribed length. Make sure that your thoughts are organized and clearly expressed. Be honest.
  • Use industry language if appropriate, and if you know exactly how to use it correctly. But be careful not to slip into jargon.
  • Incorporate research from academic journals you have read, if appropriate, and your examination of the program professor’s research interests. This is a good way to tie in any previous conversation you have had with professors in the program.
  • Tailor your essay to the particular program to which you are applying. Why are you interested in this program? What makes it different from other programs of its kind? What can you offer to the program?
  • Demonstrate your interest and passion for the subject matter by providing examples of how your background has prepared you for this graduate program. What do you hope to accomplish in the program and after graduation?
  • Proofread your essay and have other people read it. If possible, ask for feedback from someone in your area of interest.