A Short Guide to getting into Graduate School

Can’t get enough of classes, deadlines, papers and professors? Have you considered going to graduate school?

Well if you want to go to graduate school and if you are already in college, you better get cracking! Every class you take from now on can affect your chances of getting accepted by the graduate school of your choice. Here are the things that you will need to do in order to get into that utopia that you call your first choice.

#1 Get Good Grades!
That’s right. If you have been told that graduate schools don’t look at grades, you have been lied to. If an acceptance board has one spot to fill and has to choose between two identical candidates, can you guess what they are going to look at first? The candidates’ track records. Your undergraduate grades are your track record in school. So do what the professors say, study hard for tests, and get those grades up. In order to have some power over what graduate school you want to go to, keep the GPA up above 3.7. The higher your GPA, the more choice you have.

#2 Build Relationships/Form a Network
If your graduate school of choice is the same school that you are attending as an undergrad, you want to start building relationships with professors right away. Some of these professors might end up on your committee, and they will be the ones that help get you accepted.

Furthermore, even if you intend to go to a different school for graduate studies, which is a better idea, you still need this network. Most graduate schools want letters of recommendation from reputable people. So if you have built relationships with people who have seen you work and know you well, you will be able to get those letters of recommendation with no problem.

#3 Think Outside Classes
Most graduate schools want to accept candidates who have demonstrated success and a work ethic outside of college. Thus, you want to do an internship, or plan on working for a year or two after college before you move on to graduate studies. For example, say you plan on going to a school for a MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. For this reason you might go to Japan and Taiwan to teach before applying in order to get some unique experience.

Another place to look for good experiences and to increase your chances of getting into graduate school is voluntary work. The volunteering you do does not have to be in the same field as your chosen career. The point is that you will show the graduate school acceptance committee that you are well-rounded and are engaged in the world.

#4 Study Hard
The LSAT. The GRE. The GMAT. Standardized entrance examinations for graduate schools. Doesn’t the sound of these tests just make you shudder?

Well you are going to need to get over your fear. You need to involve yourself in some kind of study program to help you get ready for these tests. Just like the ACT and SAT, these tests do not test your specific knowledge, but rather your skills and abilities.

These tests are hard! But fear not, you have many options available to you. You could sign up for a test prep course at your local Kaplan or Sylvan center. You could also spend eighty bucks on a book that will help you prepare. But your best option is to buy some good software that will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and coach and tutor your through your weaknesses.

So get some good tutoring software and put it to good, regular use before you take the test.

#5 Write a Powerful Essay
Most every college and graduate school application asks you to write a short essay about your goals and how getting accepted will help you reach them. Plan your essay and write it powerfully. Use action verbs and keep it brief. Don’t shoot for the stars in your essay without discussing the fuel you intend to use to get there.

So there you have them: five tips to help you get into graduate school. It cannot be stressed enough how important the second tip is; your letters of recommendation can open doors that would otherwise remain locked to you.