Gear up for grad school apps!

This was originally posted on the Universities at Shady Grove‘s student blog Around the Grove on March 17, 2017. Read my other posts here.

Since those of us who are undergraduates at the Universities at Shady Grove are within at least a couple years of graduating, a lot of us have the question of what on earth we should do after graduation on our minds. One obvious path is going to grad school. While this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the great news is that USG has tons of resources to help with the daunting process of applying to grad programs. As I’ve talked to professors and grad school alumni, I’ve come up with a list of some of my own tips for applying:

  • Start early!!! If you are planning to enter grad school in the fall, you should probably start working on searching for, getting in contact with, and applying to grad schools at least a year (if not more) in advance from when you would start the program. So if you’re hoping to enter grad school in the fall of 2017, you should start the process in at least the fall of 2016. The earlier, the better because it’s a lot of work. Be aware that GRE scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. can take a while to get sent. If you are starting late in the game, limit the number of schools you apply to so you don’t get overwhelmed and miss things or consider waiting till next year to apply so you can really bring your A-game.
  • Research your programs well. Comb through every part of a program’s website and read about the coursework, internships, experiences, and faculty to get a better sense of what their focus and objectives are and how well it fits with what you want in a grad program. Unlike with undergrad programs, grad programs offer you the chance to really focus on a specific area that interests you, so find something that excites you!
  • Get a GRE prep book, take practice tests, and sign up for a practice class. These books explain the test format and offer practice questions, refreshers on how to do that math you learned in high school, and more. There are also apps where you can practice answering questions on the go. Best of all is that USG offers a summer GRE prep class for students and alumni, completely free to students, run by our incredible Center for Academic Success staff.
  • Find a mentor to guide you through the process. Whether a professor, a career counselor, or a current grad student, find someone (or multiple people) who can give you insight into the process, suggest programs, give things a second look-over, and offer advice and encouragement. This is crucial!
  • Talk to your professors. Get more engaged in speaking in class and meeting with professors outside of class so they can get to know you and your work in order to write a stellar recommendation. Not to mention, profs can be a great resource to let you know about grad programs they think would fit you, as well as recommendations for how to make your application stronger. They want to see students go to awesome grad programs, so don’t be afraid to ask them for help!
  • Gain internship, work, public speaking, research, and publishing experience in your field.  Grad programs can be extremely competitive, especially funded ones. So completing internships, volunteering, working on research with a professor, presenting papers at conferences and symposiums, and publishing in journals can make you a more impressive candidate. This kind of experience proves that you are serious about working in your field, disciplined, and hard-working.

Best of luck!

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