To recap, this year was filled with a lot of graduate school applications. While this process was exciting, it was also extremely overwhelming. To help with the process, I have compiled a list of tips/ tricks.
Every program is different. Being that I am pursuing theological studies, my graduate school path entails both a Master’s degree and a PhD (if I decide to pursue further graduate work). Because of this and my career aspirations, it matters for the type of program.
Make a List
While my list changed several times in the fall, it was still helpful to have everything in one place. Plus, I was able to go back and re-visit which schools aligned with my career goals.
While I was home last summer, I spent a few weeks prepping for the GRE. Not all schools require the GRE, but it does help to know sooner rather than later if your school applications entail standardized testing. I ended up taking the GRE twice, and I am so glad I started studying way in advance.
While the app process is different for everyone, I made a personal goal to have my graduate school applications in before Thanksgiving. Yes, this was probably a bad idea at the time (I had 8 apps)—but applying felt like the only part of the process I had control over. Thus, I wanted to be proactive about it. Not to mention, graduate schools can start conducting interviews once applications are submitted. Because of this, I was able to interview with some schools before Christmas! This allowed me to feel like I had agency in the process as well as provided me with additional interview experience.
Money is an important aspect of graduate school. When applying, I was very unsure if I would receive funding. I am happy to report that funding was made possible. I recommend doing a lot of research (whether it be reaching out to current students or alumni) to assess if the program provides financial support to students.
This might sound silly, but you have to believe in yourself. Due to my previous experience applying to colleges, I was so nervous I was going to get rejected from all my schools. Do not sell yourself short. If you are thinking of pursuing further graduate work, then you probably like school. What’s more, you are probably passionate about academics. Do not doubt yourself or your abilities. Apply to the places that might seem like “reach schools”. I was accepted into 7 out of 8 programs. Trust me, there is hope.
The “personal statement” can feel like a daunting portion of the application. Do not fear! The personal statement is an opportunity for you to showcase your experiences and gifts. I recommend working with a professor or academic counselor who knows you from former classes. I spent four months revising my personal statement, but it was worth it. The outline will serve as a blueprint for further career applications.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to visit the different schools. Being that I was discerning between several schools, visiting provided a concrete way to assess if a program was the best fit for me. I am thankful I was able to visit most schools before COVID-19. Not all people visit graduate schools before attending, but I found it to be helpful in factoring the overall impression of the program.
I hope these tips provided some insight into graduate school applications. I would be happy to write another post about the application process more in detail. Definitely be sure to take the process one day at a time. I know it can feel stressful, but my biggest regret would be not taking enough time to decompress after working on applications. Trust me, you deserve a break. So please, practice self-care in this process.