CM’s Top 10 Tips for Applying to Grad School

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Lisa Cleary > Graduate Student > Professional Writing > Towson University

1. Research, research, research! "The most important thing is to do your research and be sure that the program you’re applying to, and the faculty who teach in it, are the ones most suited to your needs.

That means talking with the program director, researching the program online, and talking with current students. Once you have that familiarity, you can show on your application that you are in a perfect position to benefit from, and thrive in, the program."
-Laura Wexler, faculty at Goucher College MFA in Creative Nonfiction, Maryland; adjunct at M.A. in Writing at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland

2. “Read well-written material, work on writing with brevity and clarity, and take an honest look at yourself in terms of your undergraduate courses. If you under-performed (below 3.0), say, in courses in English, take another course in English composition before you enter graduate school.
-Dr. James M. Smith, Assistant Professor, Director of the Masters of Arts Programs of Professional Studies, Towson University, Maryland

3. Before applying for a certain school, take advantage of the free seminars and lectures at various campuses to get a true feel for its academic atmosphere. Do the speakers interest you? Are the subject matters engaging? How do fellow students interact?

4. Emily Boone, Graduate Assistant at Towson University, Maryland, sees incomplete forms and applications daily. She advises applicants to “know all of the information that you have to send in and make sure you submit it. It’s all available online.”

5. Bethany Saul suggests that students apply for graduate school immediately after their undergraduate years. “Students are still in the school mentality and it is easier to keep taking classes than to stop and try to start again in a few years.”
– Graduate, 2008, from the University of Maryland School of Social Work

6. Opt to attend online graduate courses to fit with busy full-time work schedules, like Rachel Hartman, Graduate, 2010, from the University of Phoenix.  “It cuts down on driving time,” she says. “It’s all about convenience!”

7.  What would make admissions officers want to select you off of the grocery store shelf? Emphasize your brand or unique style of writing. “My favorite essays are the ones with actual content. It’s also a good idea to write within your abilities and not stretch for an excessively academic or literary prose style,” says Geoffrey Becker, Program Director of the Professional Writing Graduate Department, Towson University.

8. Wendy Tuttle, Associate Director for Graduate Administration of the Graduate Programs and Education Department at Goucher College, Maryland, states that the lowest tuition cost shouldn’t always be the deciding factor in choosing a graduate school.   “It’s not just about the tuition. There are other factors: class sizes, the type of program, or whether or not you have to take courses in a certain order.”

9. Be prepared to revise your entrance essays more than once, twice, or even three times:  have well-trusted mentors and professionals edit your written material. If possible, ask professors from the school to which you’re applying for help. Let your essays and applications sit for several days between each revision.

10.  Get to know your future mentors: “You should always meet with the staff before deciding on a school. They make or break your academic career and become your family. You need to make sure that you will work well together." 
-Timothy Young, Graduate, 2006, University of Baltimore, Law School


College Magazine Staff

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