Applying to Graduate School

Although deadlines vary, most graduate programs have a midyear application deadline. Universities usually post information and application material online. Start early.

  • Line up letters of recommendations from professors or practitioners in the field who know you well. Make the job easy for them:
    • ask in advance
    • supply everything they need, including a stamped, addressed envelope
    • share your résumé and any application essays that might help them know you better and describe your achievements in detail
    • remind them politely before the deadline, and
    • send a thank-you once you have submitted the application and another when you have heard back from the school (acceptance or decline).
  • Sign up to take any standardized tests required. Many tests are administered through the Educational Testing Service. One widely used is the Graduate Record Exam.
    • Make sure to leave yourself enough time to prepare for the test. Test prep classes can be expensive, but books you can request from the library will preview the types and content of questions and suggest strategies, such as to guess or not to guess. Practice.
  • Craft your application with care.
    • Although you’ll likely work on the application in pieces, keep the whole in mind. You have limited space, so don’t duplicate material. Try to create a coherent self-portrait—you as a person and a scholar.
    • You may retake tests. If your scores still fall short of your expectations, you might address that in your application. If so, keep the tone positive. You might present evidence of a pattern of outperforming your scores, for instance—poor SATs but good grades.
    • Mind the question, word count, and deadline. Failure to follow directions gives a tired admissions committee an easy reason to reject.
    • Just because an application essay is short, don’t assume that it requires any less work than a class paper. Write, get feedback, and revise. Since a committee will likely read the application, try to assemble a committee of readers, some of whom know you well and some of whom don’t. (Also, consider using the tutors available at Marymount’s Center for Teaching & Learning.)
    • Proofread!