Graduate School Applications
Generally, applications for graduate schools consist of several steps.
1. The Application. This is a standard four-page application that's easy enough to complete without a lot of advice. However, if you do have questions that your prospective school cannot answer, please feel free to contact me.
2. The Resume. For this, you will be expected to include relevant work experience in your field (e.g., law, psychology, computer science, etc.). If you don't have decent work experience, offer to volunteer at a company or firm in your city. If you show up on time, dress appropriately, and exude a positive attitude, chances are you will get good feedback and an excellent recommendation from an employer. Optimally, you will want to volunteer for a few hours every week for the duration of three months or more.
3. The Essay. The essay is extremely important. There are books at your local Borders or Barnes and Noble that are dedicated to helping you write the perfect graduate school essay in your prospective field. Browse them or buy them--they'll be indispensable to you. Think about taking your essay to the local writing center of your university for feedback, or ask a trusted professor to help you.
4. The Letters of Recommendation. The best letters are from professors, so long as these people are in your prospective field. When it comes to asking for letters, ask only the professors who have given you an A in class. If you've been out of school for a while, bring a copy of your A papers to the professor, so that you professor can re-familiarize her/himself with your work. If you're G.P.A. is not up to par, or you've been out of class for too long, consider taking some extra courses on the undergraduate or graduate level to brush up on your knowledge. Experts usually advise university students to sustain a 4.0 G.P.A. during their last two years in order to ensure entrance into graduate school.
You can also ask employers for letters. Remember my advice to volunteer in number 2 above? Following it may lead to a great letter of recommendation.
5. The Exam. Regardless of what field you are pursuing, there are always exams. Make sure you get the Princeton or Kaplan Reviews for the tests, and also secure retired tests from the official test site on line. Retired tests are tests that were given in previous years, and they can usually be purchased at an affordable rate. Practice taking these tests using actual testing conditions and time restrictions. Further options include taking courses offered by Kaplan, though this can be quite expensive. You can call the graduate department of your local university to see if there is a grad student who has done well on these exams; maybe her or she can tutor you at a more affordable rate.
6. The Writing Sample. You will most likely be required to submit a writing sample. You will want to use the best paper you wrote in your field during your undergraduate college career. Consult with the professors who are writing you letters of recommendation. Tell them you're planning to use that paper and see if there is anything else you can do to improve it. Also, try submitting your paper to an undergraduate academic journal. (You can find a list of them on line using Google or Yahoo; just type in "undergraduate academic journal" and your field, e.g., "economics" or "philosophy.") A publication or two on your resume can only increase your chances of acceptance. While you’re at it, submit your paper to an undergraduate conference where you will have the opportunity to present your research and meet other promising students in your field. (Search for these conferences using Google or Yahoo, as stated above.) This will also be good fodder for your resume.
7. The Assistantship or Fellowship Application. Don't forget to apply for teaching assistantships, research assistantships and fellowships. These opportunities not only pay for your tuition, they also usually give you money for living expenses during your studies. If you are pursuing highly competitive fields like law or medicine, the chances are lower that you will receive these. However, it's not impossible, so check out the opportunity anyway by asking the graduate admissions advisor at your prospective university.
Good luck to you. And remember, if you need more help, call me. I'm at 1-800-INGENIO, ext. 035-337-68.