Almost all grad school applications will ask for the same things, year after year. But what are they? We’ve made a one-stop reference guide for you to use while putting your applications together. Here’s a breakdown of what your application might need.
- The Application Form (mostly biographical information)
- An Application Essay (aka the “Statement of Intent” or “Statement of Purpose”)
- Letters of Recommendation
- GRE Score(s)
- A Résumé/CV
- Additional Optional Essay(s) and/or Addenda (if applicable)
- Additional materials
Schools typically make their graduate applications available in the late summer and early fall. Many may give you the option of printing off a paper application and mailing it in. But, most prefer or require that you submit your applications electronically and many have specific programs they like you to use. If that’s the case, those programs will be accessible through the school’s website. Since schools ask for similar information each year, you can start working on your app even if the current applications aren’t available yet.
This is the basic application form. It asks biographical, academic, extracurricular, and conduct information.
Almost all grad schools require an essay. The topic will vary from school to school, but it usually deals with several important questions. What is your motivation for attending grad school? What program are going to focus on? Why is this school/program a good fit for you? Sometimes, schools have specific topics they’d like you to address and will list those in the application instructions. If a school wants to hear about something specific, make sure your essay addresses it.
Letter(s) of Recommendation
Most schools ask for multiple letters. Some may just want one (or none) and some may give you the option to submit as many as you want. The best people to ask for these are your professors and/or employers. These recommenders, after writing the letters, typically mail or upload them directly to the school. You are typically not able to upload these on your own. Carefully read the application instructions so you know the proper protocol these letters must follow.
To get these, you must request them from all undergraduate and graduate institutions you’ve attended. Each institution submits them directly to the grad school(s) you apply to. Some schools may accept unofficial transcripts. An example of an unofficial transcript is one that you can print from a college/university website. However, most will also require an official transcript before they can official review your application or offer you admission.
Here’s a quote directly from the ETS/GRE website.
Your test fee entitles you to request that scores be sent to up to four graduate institutions or fellowship sponsors. With the ScoreSelect® option, you can decide which test scores to send to the institutions you designate, so you can send the scores you feel show your personal best, giving you more confidence on test day. If you wish to send scores to additional institutions or decide to send scores after test day, you may do so by ordering Additional Score Reports for a fee of US$27 per recipient.
- For the computer-delivered GRE® General Test, you will be asked to designate your free score recipients at the test center.
- For the paper-delivered GRE General Test, you will be asked to designate your free score recipients during registration.
For this, you will either upload it to the online application or mail it in with the rest of your application materials.
Additional Optional Essay(s) and/or Addenda
- Optional Essays are essays a school requests in addition to the application essay. Not every school will request additional essays.
- An addenda includes explanations that address problems in your past, usually academic or professional. Schools will likely have requirements for how they need to be composed and submitted on their website or application.
These include research papers, articles or books you published, theses, etc. These will become part of your application once you mail them in.
Knowing what will be required in your application is the first step to making sure you’re prepared and organized during the application process. Take some time to figure out what you’ll need and what you’ll have to do, and it will make it that much easier to keep on track with your academic plans!