If you are hoping to get accepted to a PhD program, there are several things you can do to distinguish yourself from other master’s level students. Because graduate students are expected to maintain good grades (usually As and Bs in all course work), good grades alone are not enough to set you apart from your classmates.
One option is to choose the thesis track if your program offers one. When you apply to a doctoral program, your thesis serves as a sample of your work. It also shows that you have the ability to complete a large project. Although completing a master’s thesis is very hard work, you will have a final product to send in with your applications.
You should also consider submitting an article based on your research to a scholarly journal within your discipline. You can begin by looking at the websites of various journals for their submission requirements. You won’t be able to submit your thesis in its original format, but with a little tailoring, many master’s theses are suitable for publication.
Whether or not you decide to tackle a master’s thesis, you should engage in as much ongoing research as possible. This can be accomplished by talking to professors in your department about any ongoing projects they may have and asking if they could use your help. If you are lucky, and something you work on is published, you may be added as a co-author.
These opportunities may be hard to come by, or you may be nervous about approaching professors on your own. Many master’s programs offer graduate assistantships. You can apply for these positions through your department. If you are given a graduate assistantship, you will likely be assigned to one or more professors and asked to assist them with various projects which you can later add to your vita.
Additionally, you should apply for as many scholarships and/or fellowships as possible. If you are lucky enough to receive some of these awards, they will help distinguish you as an outstanding graduate student.
Lastly, you should gather as many quality letters of recommendation as possible. Of course, it is best if these come from professors in your chosen field. If a professor you are on good terms with happens to be a graduate of the program you are applying to, this can also be beneficial to you.
If you work on accomplishing as many of these things as possible, you should be able to distinguish yourself as an accomplished student.