This timeline of topics and ideas may assist you to apply to graduate school strategically. Attend to the specifics of each graduate school and modify accordingly.
The Application Year
- Research graduate programs based your criteria (i.e. area of interest, faculty and mentors, facilities and resources, research or experiential opportunities, financial aid and funding, geographic location, size of program, etc.)
- Review graduate schools’ brochure and application materials (from the previous year)
- Speak with professors, alums, mentors and other professionals about your interests
- Study and plan when you will take the appropriate admission test
- Review the recommendation process and carefully select your recommendation writers
- Study and take the appropriate admission test
- Research, contact, and visit graduate schools
- Contact letter writers for updates
- Draft personal statements/statements of purpose and have them reviewed and critiqued by a Lazarus Center Advisor
- Request current brochures, application and financial aid materials
- Study and take the appropriate admission test
- Contact letter writers to insure completion and submission
- Create list of schools to which you will apply
- Complete and submit application and financial aid materials at least 1-month before deadline
- Confirm completed application files
- If wait-listed, send additional supporting materials
- Evaluate acceptances and pay deposit
DECIDING TO ATTEND
Graduate school is a mental, physical, financial, and emotional commitment. Consider carefully your reasons for wanting to continue your education (academic or employment). Consult with faculty and evaluate your abilities, the strength of your candidacy, and the outcomes of an advanced degree.
- Go to graduate school with an intended purpose,
NOT because you don’t know what else to do.
- Go to graduate school for your wanting to learn more,
NOT to please someone else.
Deciding to attend graduate school may mean you will attend the fall after graduation or at some point in your future:
- Will your application profit from a year or two of experience?
- Is your momentum strong to keep you focused on your graduate school academics?
- Will a part-time graduate program allow you to both work and attend graduate school?
Gather information about graduate programs through a variety of resources:
- Faculty: Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of programs and where former Smithies have attended.
- Alums: What advice can they offer you about their graduate school experience? Contact graduate school admission offices for lists of current students or recent graduates who previously attended Smith.
- Scholars and Professionals: Who has authored papers and books of interest? From where have they graduated?
- Websites: Peterson’s Guide to Graduate Study, Graduate School Guide, Grad Schools
Narrow the field of graduate schools to a reasonable number, taking into account:
- your personal criteria;
- the time involved to complete well-thought out, competitive applications; and
- your ability to pay admission fees (or seek fee waivers, if available).
APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL
Craft your application specifically for each program to which you apply. Admissions officers want to understand who you are, what you bring to the program, what is your academic preparation and interest, and how their graduate program meets your needs.
- Graduate programs may require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) - General and perhaps Subject test. Some programs may require the Miller Analogies Test (MAT).
- Prepare thoroughly for these tests. Plan to take the test once. Multiple test scores may not be an advantage.
- Applicants may benefit from a test prep, such as Kaplan, Princeton Review, Testwell, TestMasters or others.
- Consider carefully the cost, time commitment, and your need for a test prep organization.
Select professors who will best support your application to a graduate program. Read the graduate program’s application guidelines as to how many letters are required and how they are to be submitted. Read the Lazarus Center Guide to recommendations and if appropriate, use Interfolio.
Most graduate programs require transcripts from any college where you had taken a class. Requesting your Smith Transcript.
Read the Personal Statement prompt and take the time to write your statement accordingly. Attend the Writing a Personal Statement Workshop, or schedule an appointment with an advisor. Writing your personal statement.
Some programs (PhD level), will ask you to come for an interview (which may include several sessions) with faculty members in your field and current students. This is an opportunity for the department to get to know you and your chance to ask questions and determine whether the department is a good fit for you. Prepare for the interviews with a mock interview with the Lazarus Center staff.