Graduate school has been on my mind lately. Why do you ask? Last semester I finished up my applications for physical therapy programs that will continue my educational career for another three years. Although it’s a relief to have all the applications done, it’s almost more stressful to be playing the waiting game to hear back about acceptance. Graduate school and stressful are two ideas that make a perfect pair, but there are ways to lighten the load of the application process.
Since other areas of graduate school have been covered in other blog posts (Grad School: Yes, No, Maybe So and Basics to know about the GRE Exam), for the purpose of this post I will dive into more detail about the application process in general.
Through my personal experience, and you have all heard it before, do not procrastinate your application process! Research deadlines well in advance when looking at different programs. Make a calendar of ‘due dates’ to stick to and to keep yourself on track. Applications require all levels of required information such as the basic personal information which is easy to fill out, but there’s always more than the eye can see. There is the personal statement, letters of recommendation, and other essays that are more time consuming and most commonly the steps that are the most procrastinated.
If there are application materials that require the assistance of others, begin with those first. These materials could be letters of recommendation, confirmation of work/job shadowing hours, and more. The earlier that you can send out a notice, the more time it allows that person to create a reflective and honest recommendation for you. Remember that whoever you are sending your request to, also has a busy career so that they may take some time in fulfilling your request. Handle this professionally by keeping an open line of communication in case they have questions that might be hindering the progress.
The most difficult part of my applications, and for most people completing applications, is the anticipated personal statement. Look at this early as well because this step is usually the most time consuming. Warning hint: creating a perfect personal statement takes time, your writing won’t be perfect the first draft! Within your essay or personal statements it’s important to have a focus in your writing with enough details to support your story. Some personal statements have questions to guide you, similar to a typical essay question, which means that your focus must be on making sure that you are specifically answering what the question is asking. The admission committee of the program you are applying to will be able to tell how much time was spent reflecting and perfecting your statement and essays. Remember that the admissions committee is viewing not only your answer to the question, but also viewing your essays as a sample of your writing.
If you are considering graduate school in the future, know that there are many resources available to you! Consider this blog as your first and most obvious source of information! Beyond our blog, Career Services is overflowing with information, tips, and advice about how to best prepare yourself for graduate school. Career Services is available to you now as a student and even in the future as alumni if your graduate-school-mindset changes down the road! If you need help taking the big step that is graduate level education, Career Services is here to help you along the way!