By: Dr. Kristen Willmott Graduate School Admissions Director, Top Tier Admissions
Graduate school can be an immensely rewarding experience advancing your career, expanding your horizons, building valuable networks, and raising your earning potential throughout your career track.
In the past year especially, the standard is so high at top-level institutions that all programs, undergraduate AND graduate, have experienced tougher admissions standards, confusing ‘test-optional’ but typically not ‘test-blind’ policies, and in the midst of a still continuing global pandemic, flooded applicant pools, given the trickledown effect.
Here are 4 KEY ways to boost your grad admissions odds:
1. Pause to Consider Why You Want to Apply to Grad School
One of your first steps in the graduate school admissions process should be to ask yourself:
- What draws me to the idea of graduate school?
- What do I hope to get out of a program, and what do I plan to put into it and why/how? (time, money, commitment)
- What are my career goals post-graduate school?
- What kind of program fits these goals?
- What specific field interests me and why?
Unlike undergraduate college admissions, graduate school admissions is about determining an applicant’s potential for scholarly success in a specific program and contributions to a specific field post-graduation.
For top masters and doctoral programs, it is not enough to be a phenomenal student; admissions officers will work to analyze your likelihood of contributing to their program AND succeeding in your field post-graduation.
2. Pick Programs Strategically and With a Long-Range View in Mind
The benefits of graduate school include:
- A likely and somewhat substantial increase in salary and rank/title within your field across your professional career
- A boost in credentials for your resume and career pathways
- A leg-up with regard to management and leadership opportunities post-graduate school
- Intellectual stimulation and growth
- And probable involvement/lifelong connections with some of the most renowned scholars, teachers, and researchers in the world.
Graduate School Admissions Counseling
98% of all Top Tier Admissions grad applicants get into their first or second choice program in range.
3. Understand (well in advance!) How Your Application Will be Evaluated
The good news is that most masters and doctoral programs are generally forthright with the criteria they use to determine an applicant’s potential for success within their program and within the selected field of interest.
Evaluated criteria for graduate school admission typically include:
- Grades in college and previous graduate school programs (even those in which the student was a non-matriculated student)
- Standardized test scores (GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, etc.)
- Professional and academic letters of recommendation
- Work/internship experience and demonstrated leadership and success in professional positions within your field
- Research exposure/experience –as connected to working with faculty, graduate students, peer students, attending and presenting at academic conferences in your field, authorship or co-authorship of research/writing, demonstrated knowledge of top research/academic journals in your field, lab experience (if appropriate), and membership in professional and academic societies/affiliations within your field.
4. Carefully Evaluate Your Selected Graduate School Programs
- Course Listings –Can you imagine taking those classes? Are they teaching the info you are hoping to learn? Do the school requirements that they have give you necessary structure for your education, or do you find them too restrictive?
- Faculty – This will be especially important if you are looking to do research with a faculty advisor, but it also gives you an idea of the background of the instructors.
- Financial Picture – Graduate school can be extremely expensive, so check into each program’s tuition and aid. Is it fully funded? Are there opportunities for scholarships?
- Students – Most websites will have a section where you can read about select students and their fields of study and/or career paths.
- Location – You’ll be there for at least a year (and most stay in that city post-degree as they field job offers locally), so make sure it is somewhere you don’t mind living. Have you done the e-tours, the on-site visits, and seen the local area?
It’s a good goal to take some time and determine your reasons for pursuing graduate school well BEFORE the admissions process starts, THEN work to boost your admissions odds with depth in your targeted field, a solid research foundation to continue to build on, and applications and essays that authentically convey the unique contributions you will bring to their campus, their program, and their academic community.
Here at Top Tier Admissions, we are ready to help you unlock your full potential in graduate school admissions. 98% of all Top Tier Admissions grad applicants get into their first or second choice program in range.
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