Undergraduate News to Use: Applying to Graduate School
By Katy Krieger, GSC Member-at-Large for Undergraduate Affairs
As we all head back to school, we begin to think about applying to graduate programs. Many of you may be thinking about what materials you will need to prepare and how exactly to do this. Well, look no further, because I am here to help!
1. GRE: Almost all schools require that you take the GRE and they have to have the scores before specified date. So, take the GRE early so that you can send off scores and your schools will get them in hand right around the time they get your other materials. In addition, you may want to schedule two test sessions if you were not happy with your first exam score. There is a GRE rule about the number of days that must pass between testing dates. Visit the ETS GRE website here.
2. Letters of Recommendation: Secure your letter writers as early as possible. Talk with your advising professor or academic advisor (or even a lab manager) about potential options for letter writers. Also, give your letter writers information about you- they have interacted with you in limited capacities so make sure they have a copy of your CV and other accomplishments so they can best represent you in their letter. Also, aim for high quality letters from professors who you have worked with closely on research or scholarship in some way. Try to avoid employers (unless it is completely relevant) and professors or advisors who don’t know you that well.
3. Personal Statement: These need lots of editing so make sure you start on them early. Have multiple eyes looking at them and it is especially useful if you can get a professor or someone in the field/program type you want to go into look at your letter as they know what to look for. Be specific in this statement about the professors you want as your advisors and what draws you to the program you are seeking.
4. Teaching Statement/Diversity Statement: These are not always required by programs but make sure you pay attention if they are. They require just as much time and effort as everything else in your packet of materials. Many programs will bring you on as a teaching assistant or they run a program aiming to increase diversity- highlight your experiences and your ideologies/pedagogies for both. Again, have some extra eyes looking at these statements and helping you to edit.
5. CV: This is incredibly important to your application packet as it best represents what you have done, where you spend your time, and what your passions are. Look at CV’s from people in your department (especially assistant professors as they have just recently done their CV’s and they are updated a lot). Sit down and really think about the experiences and opportunities you have had. Important factors are research experience, teaching experience, publications, posters/presentations, service experience and any funding/grant/award information you can give. Also, pay attention to formatting as these are different from your stock resume.
Finally, I want to leave you with the idea that you should prepare these documents early but revise them often. Also, tailor them to each program. Do your homework about the school, program, faculty, and graduate students and then apply this knowledge to your materials before submitting them.
Best of luck!