Applying for graduate school? Things you can start doing now.

You’re thinking about going back to graduate school?  Graduate school can be a rewarding experience where you can explore, engage and think… while establishing yourself for career advancement or  job opportunities in your chosen path of study.  But keep in mind graduate school is a huge commitment and it does not guarantee that you will end up with the job of your dreams (at least not immediately).

If you have made up your mind about going to graduate school, here are a couple of things to do before applying:

Research graduate school programs that may interest you and find out if you are qualified or not.  You should also find out what are their requirements and deadlines to be considered for admission.  A prospective candidate showed me her color-coordinated spreadsheet to keep track of the different programs, deadlines, requirements and contact information — this is a great way to keep yourself organized especially if you are considering several programs.  Go to fairs, speak to admissions counselors, attend information sessions, visit the school and sit in a class or two.

Make sure you meet all the requirements to apply.

Ask your professors and supervisors if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf. Ask early in the applications process so they have as much time as needed to prepare the letter. Provide them with the information of where to send the letter.  Also send them your personal statement and your resume.

I mentioned personal statement; think about what it is that you wish to convey to the Admissions Committees.  Your statement/essay will help you tell your story and why a particular program/school is the best place for you to get your education given your goals and interests — tailor the essays to the program/school you are applying.  It also gives the committees an opportunity to get to know you more personally.  Be sure to cover all the points that the school asks you to address in your essays.  And most importantly proofread before submitting them.

Prepare your resume/CV. You should also include any academic awards or scholarships you’ve earned.

Request your official transcripts from all your Universities/colleges you have attended, but keep in mind, you may submit unofficial scanned copies for review — so no rush on getting the official transcripts to us immediately.

And remember it’s never too soon to start researching scholarship opportunities.  SIPA keeps a database of external scholarships we hear about that are relevant for our students, so begin there.  Graduate school can be expensive so thinking about your finances early is always smart.