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Applying to Graduate Schools

Admission Requirements

Application and Fee

Make sure the application is submitted by the deadline. If the schools you are applying to have rolling admission, you should apply as early as possible as applicants are reviewed as their applications are submitted. Even those schools with a regular admission process like to see applications that are submitted in advance of the deadline.

Admissions Test Scores

Each institution has their own requirements regarding admission tests requirements. It is advisable to spend some time going over individual questions and taking more than one practice test. Test preparation books are useful and preparatory classes such as the Stanley Kaplan may be helpful, though costly.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Most general graduate schools require the General Test and many require the Subject Test. The General Test contains a verbal, quantitative and analytical section. The Subject Test measures knowledge of a particular subject matter. The General and Subject Test can be taken on the same day or on different days.

Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)

The GMAT is required for most students seeking an MBA degree. The 4 hour test measures general verbal and mathematical skills. It does not test specific knowledge or achievement gained in a particular subject area.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

The LSAT is designed to measure abilities needed for the study of law and to assist law schools in evaluating their applicants. There are six multiple choice questions assessing the ability to read, understand and reason as well as one writing sample. The use of the LSDAS service is highly recommended as it assembles, in one report, all of the information required of the applicant by most law schools.

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

The MCAT measures the applicant's abilities in chemistry, physics, biology, reading, quantitative and analytical skills. There is one test in the Fall and one in the Spring. Applicants are encouraged to take the MCAT 18 months before entering medical school.

Miller Analogy Test (MAT)

The MAT uses verbal analogies to test reasoning ability. Some graduates schools will accept the MAT in lieu of the GRE. You should contact your local college or university for information regarding where the test may be available to you locally; at the College of William and Mary, contact the School of Education at (757) 221-2317.

Official Transcripts

Most schools ask that an official transcript be sent from your college's Registrar office. The transcript demonstrates your receipt of an undergraduate degree, the courses you took and grades received. If you have taken classes or received a degree at another institution, you need to request a transcript from that school as well.

Grade Point Average

The GPA is one factor that graduate schools will take into account. The standard GPA needed for acceptance to most graduate schools is a 3.0. Many other schools will accept students with less than a 3.0, though, so don't rule out graduate school if your GPA is below that mark. Concentrate on and market your strengths. If your GPA is below the average of those generally accepted, work on enhancing your personal statement, admission test scores or gain some relevant work experience. The types of courses taken, your GPA and evidence of improvement, if you did not start out strongly, will all be considered. Some programs require a specific major or courses to be admitted.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters should be requested early from either professors or employers who can attest to your abilities. Approach faculty for letters before the end of your senior year, preferably not near exam periods. Individuals who can speak most clearly about your abilities and accomplishments are your best bets. Admissions officers like to see specific examples about different facets of the applicant. The reference should include some statements about your skills, accomplishments and character. They can also be used to explain a negative in your application.

Have employers or professors use the forms enclosed in the application and give them information on what your professional interests and goals are (a copy of your personal statement or resume is helpful). Also provide clear information about application deadlines.


Note: The Career Center has a Credentials File service that you may use for your letters of recommendation. This service is highly appreciated by the faculty, as it allows them to write just one letter for you. The service is especially useful for those who plan to wait a few years before applying to graduate school.

Personal Statement

The purpose of the personal statement is to give you the opportunity to articulate your goals and reasons for applying to graduate school in your particular field of study. You may need to brainstorm before starting the draft on what's unique about you, how you became interested in the field, your personal characteristics and skills and your previous experiences.

The opening paragraph should grab the reader's attention. Introduce the main elements that you will discuss in the statement. The middle paragraph should include the "meat" of the statement. Indicate why you are interested in the field and any relevant experience you have had. State some of your long term goals and be specific. You should state what you can offer the program and in turn what you will gain from it. You could also include some of your personal qualities and strengths. The closing paragraph should leave the reader with an image of you that they will remember. You should either re-articulate the main points of the statement, or add a particularly significant point. An average length of the statement is around two pages or approximately 500 words.

Some items that should be left out of a personal statement are, any information from high school (unless an interest in the field began in high school), potentially controversial subjects and any item that doesn't answer the question asked or follow the guidelines specified. Be selective. It is important to demonstrate your enthusiasm and the statement should show your personality and individualism. Lastly, it is important that the statement be well-written.

Resources that may be of help to you and include sample statements: How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School (Richard J. Stelzer. Peterson's Guides) as well as Purdue Online Writing Lab, Writing the Personal Statement.

Interview

Some schools will require an interview for acceptance. If you are applying for an assistantship or internship, an interview may also be required. If the school does not require an interview, it would still be advantageous to schedule a time to meet with a faculty member or chairperson of the department for which you are applying. This meeting will provide an opportunity for you to find out more information about the school and the program. Before the interview, you should read over the catalogue to become familiar with the institution's goals and functions.
The following are possible questions asked by graduate schools in an interview.

  • Why did you choose this graduate program?
  • What are some of the reasons that you have chosen this profession? What do you think it takes to be successful in it?
  • Tell me about your experiences in your field of interest?
  • Tell me why we should choose you over the many other applicants?
  • What are your long range goals?
  • Describe three of your strengths and three weaknesses.
  • What are some of the rewards and some of the frustrations of this profession?
  • What was your most rewarding college experience?
  • How do you spend your spare time? What are your hobbies?
  • Tell me about yourself.
Other

Samples of previous work may be required for some programs such as Art, Architecture, Public Relations and Journalism. A portfolio can be created to highlight any work of which you are particularly proud. Putting together a portfolio can be discussed with a Career Advisor in the Career Center. Other programs may require evidence of previous work experience in the field. This shows your enthusiasm and interest in the field and demonstrates out of class learning.