Tips and tricks on graduate school application

This semester, as a senior, I realized there was a lot more that goes into a graduate application than an undergraduate application.

It was a daunting process for me this semester, so here are a few things that I wished I had known before applying to graduate school.

Getting started is the most challenging part of the application, recognize that the application process starts way before the fall semester of your senior year. If you’re planning to attend right out of undergrad, I would recommend starting researching graduate programs a few months in advance of the time you would begin completing the application and gathering the materials.

When you begin your research, spend a decent amount of time thinking about why you are applying to graduate school and why at this time.

One reason may be that graduate school is the next step in your career. Other reasons include waiting to see if you would need an advanced degree or to pursue a newfound passion.

Now that you’ve figured out your program and timing, you can start looking into specific schools. Similar to undergraduate school, attempt to look for ones that offer the most funding. Some maybe fully funded and others may have funding options not specifically advertised.

Spend a decent amount of time scouring their funding and financial aid pages.

Do some research into the faculty that will be teaching you. Watch their interviews, read their articles and published works, and look at where they attended graduate school. This will tell if you will be compatible with the program, that the program will suit your goals, and what connections you will be able to make.

Look into the location of the graduate school. See if relocating there is a good fit for you by checking how far or close it is from family and friends, and if there are any job opportunities that might become available during or post-graduate school.

Have conversations with family, friends, and significant others about potential schools and the changes that may occur when making that move once you get in. While you should follow your passions and the best opportunities career-wise, you will still need support. Having people in your corner whether you move closer to them or far away, will make any major changes a lot smoother.

I would suggest starting the process of putting together the application materials in the beginning of the Fall semester of your senior year or three to six months before the application is due.

What has made a huge difference for me when putting my application together was the assistance I received from my mentors here at Coastal. They were able to help guide me in directions of programs I may have not heard of otherwise, as well as being able to review my submission materials. For these reasons, I would highly suggest working closely with a professor or two on the application process. They’ve done it before and will offer the best advice.

Select your recommenders wisely. You should think about asking professors that you have worked closely with, or who know you on a more personal level. Also think about asking professors that have connections to the programs as alumni or through people they may know.

To really make this process less daunting, take advantage of the resources you have at your disposal here at CCU like your professors or advising centers. Whether or not you have been meticulously planning or cramming at the last minute, always keep your goals in mind.

I hope that any of these tidbits of advice speaks to you on your journey to graduate school.