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Graduate School Application Process

Somehow universities have found a way to create an application process possibly more complex and nerve-wracking than the regular undergraduate college application process: graduate school application process. So complicated that it could potentially make you reconsider applying. With so many deadlines, requirements, and even multiple, required standardized tests, we have simplified the process for you. However, remember to do your independent research just as they may be specific requirements we do not provide.

Standardized Tests

Depending on the degree you are pursuing, there are different tests that may be required. Law students must take the law school admission test, or LSAT. Medical students take the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. Business students may be asked to take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). Most other students will contend with the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), though the part of your score the program focuses on depends on your major. Some schools will only consider applicants who meet the minimum test score. Other programs may not require a test, or may put very little weight on test scores, favoring an applicant’s other materials.


Your college transcript is also an important element of your graduate school admission packet, and the grades you boast from your undergraduate career are typically a good predictor for graduate school admissions officials. Those admissions officials will also be looking at college classes as they relate to your GPA. Well-rounded graduate school candidates do not strive for easy As; they excel in major-relative courses majors and challenge themselves in courses outside of their fields of study. Fortunately, the graduate school admission process is likely the last time you will be held accountable for your undergraduate GPA and course load.

Personal Statement

As a high school senior, you simply had to write an essay in response to a random prompt to get into college. Suddenly, you’re tasked with writing a “personal statement” or “letter of intent.” In less than two pages, you’re expected to sum up your academic career, research interests, and fit for the program to which you’re applying. This is no easy task, as admissions officials put heavy weight on what you provide. Deeply think of the question(s) asked and how you will fit into your desired program. How will you enhance the student body? How will the education they provide enhance your life and your career? This is also the place to address any fluctuations in your transcript, grade-wise, as well as GRE score that you may think will keep you from acceptance without proper explanation.

Letters of Recommendation

In graduate school, you will participate in small classes that are infused with heavy student-professor interaction. With that in mind, it makes sense the admission committee wants to know what your undergraduate professors think of you as a student. Hopefully, you’ve developed a good relationship with at least three of your professors by senior year of college. As they know you on a more personal level, they may offer to write you a letter of recommendation. Consider who would be willing to speak well of you and your abilities, as well as how much weight their opinion will give to the graduate admissions board.

Samples of Your Work

Admission committees strongly search to see if you are cut out for the work required for a master’s degree. To that end, many graduate programs require an attached sample of two of your strongest research or writing projects. If you’re applying for an arts degree, you may need to submit a portfolio with creative work, go through an audition process, etc. Students who have undertaken a capstone project, such as a senior thesis, typically choose to attach a sample from that. For those who didn’t conduct a similar project for graduate school application, you will want to go through your undergraduate assignments (hopefully you’ve kept some!) and choose either your strongest or most relevant works.


When applying to grad school, you may be invited to come in to campus for an interview, either as part of the formal application process, or on an informal “getting to know you” basis. Regardless of the nature of the interview, maintain a level of professionalism, and let the college get to know you as a student. The interview is also your chance to find out about the program and the people in it, so think about what’s important to you and what questions you want to ask.

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Last Reviewed: July 2018