We all remember the process we went through when applying to colleges: personal essays, countless letters of recommendations, SAT scores, academic grades and extracurricular activities were all vital in getting into our “dream” school. If you’re thinking about applying to graduate school after your undergraduate studies, the process will seem all too familiar. On October 24th, Chestnut Hill College invited a Kaplan specialist to speak to students on the ins-and-outs of how to prepare a sterling application. Like undergraduate applications, the graduate school or schools look at all the required statistical information (grade point average, as well as GRE/GMAT or LSAT test scores) but take more time assessing your qualitative attributes, or who you are as an individual. Essentially, as the speaker emphasized, it is more about who you are and how well you can convince them that they would benefit from your enrollment.
One of the common misconceptions when applying to a graduate program is that the test score and GPA speak for themselves. This is not true! Your test score and GPA not only needs to match the criteria of the program but is pretty much the “key” to unlocking the door to having your application considered. This is where your personal experiences, letters of recommendation, resume and any other unique information come into play. How well you did on the test will not secure you a spot.
However, on the other hand, thinking that your “awesomeness” will guarantee you a spot (especially if your grades don’t match their requirements) is not a sure shot either. Your experiences, recommendations and other character enhancing materials, although important, will not be enough to grant you consideration—and that is if your application even gets glanced at. The numbers are what get you into the right hands in the first place.
The main factor to think about before you even begin compiling your application is money. As if undergrad hasn’t put you in enough debt, you have to really decide if the money you shell out for the program is going to ensure you a better career. But before you can even decide if you can afford it, make sure grad school is right for you. Think about where you want to be, research that title and what the benefits are if you decide to complete a graduate program. The test alone costs a few hundred dollars to take each time, especially if you have to retake it. Not to mention the cost of attending grad school is often times paid for by you, out of pocket (which is definitely not cheap).
So if you’re thinking about furthering your education, consider these tips beforehand:
Is this particular program/school the right fit? Research your choices and narrow down what school has the most to offer.
Can you afford it? If you are already in the workplace, some companies offer to pay for it if it is a requirement for your field.
Make your experience (personal and professional) work for you. Graduate schools are looking for well-rounded individuals so the more multi-faceted you seem the better chance you have of catching their eye.
Study, study, study for the test! As mentioned before, it costs several hundred dollars to take it each time and you can only take it a certain amount of times in a five-year span so a bad score can hurt your chances.
If grad school is your next stop, be sure to be prepared. And remember to treat your application as though it is a snapshot: you want the most flattering (and honest!) image portrayed that will be guaranteed to stand out from the rest.
*This blog post was written by Griselle Rodriguez