- Application form
- Personal statement (not required for all programs)
- Non-refundable application fee
- Financial Aid application
- Letters of Recommendation
- Standardized test scores
- Personal Interview
The Application Form
The application form is the most unambiguous component of the application package.
- Make sure to follow the instructions carefully, and pay special attention to detail.
- Type or print in black ink.
- Fill out each page clearly, accurately, and free of typographical and grammatical errors.
- Be consistent in spelling out your full legal name on each page or item you submit.
The Personal Statement
Most graduate school applications contain an essay portion or "statement of purpose." Your essay should specifically address questions posed the application, and express your enthusiasm for the field of study, your motivation, creativity, maturity and personal uniqueness. The essay is a key measure of your communication skills, so it pays to be meticulous about spelling, grammar, and writing style. Most applications will state the length of the essay or provide space. Keep your essay within these boundaries; a longer essay will tire the admissions committee and will work against you. Admissions committees will evaluate the quality of the essay, not the length. For easier readability, use at least a 10 point type or larger and choose a traditional easy-to-read typeface.
In most cases, fees range from $25 - $150. By the time you apply to several schools, the fees add up to a lot of money! However, many schools have an application fee waiver for students with financial need. Call the admissions office for more information.
An application for financial aid will generally come either as part of your application packet or in a separate mailing from a campus financial aid office. You may need to apply separately for fellowships and loans. Since financial support varies widely from institution to institution, the best advice is to read all financial aid materials carefully and to file documents on time.
Have your registrar's office send an official transcript of your undergraduate work directly to the admissions office of the schools to which you are applying. When reviewing your transcript, the admissions committee may consider:
- Cumulative GPA
- GPA in your major/concentration
- Final 2 year GPA
- GPA in courses relevant to your intended field
- GPA from year-to-year, or semester to semester
The standard GPA needed for acceptance to most graduate schools is 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Many other schools will accept students with less than 3.0, so don't rule out graduate school if your GPA is below that mark. A below-average GPA can often be offset by good letters of recommendation, high test scores, and a well-written personal statement.
Letters of Recommendation
Most schools ask for three to five letters of recommendation. Admissions committees prefer references from faculty who can evaluate your academic performance and graduate school potential. Approach faculty members early in the fall of your senior year to give them time to write before their other academic pressures mount. Schedule meetings with your recommendation writers to discuss your reasons for going to graduate school and why you are applying to specific programs. Provide an abstract of courses taken and grades received, projects completed, and a concise description of graduate school and career plans. Letters of Recommendation should outline specific accomplishments that you have achieved and should tie into why you are an exceptional candidate.
Standardized Test Scores
The school's catalog will specify which test you need and often indicate what is considered to be a competitive score. The most common tests are the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission test), the MCAT (Medical College Admission test), and the LSAT (Law School Admission test). Some schools may require other tests, or specialized tests for various professional degree programs. Test registration deadlines are well in advance of the actual test dates, and most are given only a few times annually. Due to increased competition for admission and financial assistance, it will work to your advantage to take the appropriate standardized test early in your application process. Policies regarding taking the test more than once, and whether scores are averaged or if the highest score alone is considered vary from institution to institution so make sure and ask the admissions office.
More and more graduate schools include personal interviews as part of the overall application process. The interview gives both you and the admissions committee a firsthand opportunity to determine if there is a good match.
*Adapted from the UCLA Career Center Web Site © 2004 at career.ucla.edu and printed in this text with permission from the Career Center, University of California, Los Angeles