Applying to grad school can feel like a maze of requesting documents, taking tests, and writing essays. How do you make sense of it all, and be successful in your quest for admission to a graduate program? The subject matter of this post is pretty straightforward. There’s very little you can do about your transcripts other than request them, submit them, and explain any negatives in them. We cover each of these in turn.
The rule of thumb here is that you need to request transcripts from all graduate and undergraduate institutions that you have attended. Don’t leave any of them out. Schools want to have your complete undergraduate and graduate academic history, and transcripts are the way to provide them with that.
A few notes:
- Make sure to check and see if there are any transcript-specific forms that the school to which you are applying requests that you use or submit. If there are any such forms, make sure to submit them to your graduate and undergraduate institutions when your request you transcript, along with specific instructions on how and when to submit them.
- Submit your transcript requests months in advance. It can take a few weeks for your request to be processed and mailed out.
- Request a copy for yourself! Make sure you know what the admissions officers at the schools to which you’re applying will see.
Some schools will want you to submit your transcripts in two ways: an unofficial copy submitted directly through the school’s application platform, and another, official, copy submitted via mail. Others may just want an official copy submitted to them by mail.
A few notes:
- Schools will want transcripts submitted to them directly from your undergraduate and graduate institutions. Do not have transcripts sent to you first, so that you can forward them.
- Again, make sure you request those transcripts months in advance, so that they can be submitted to the schools to which you are applying in plenty of time.
- Read application instructions carefully! If a school requests that transcripts be submitted in a variety of ways, make sure to comply.
So what happens if you had a bad semester (or two, or three), or a failing grade, or a number of withdrawn or no-credit courses? You need to explain what happened, so that admissions officers can make a determination on your candidacy based on all the information. In order to do this, you need to submit an additional document known as an addendum. In essence, an addendum is a one- to two-paragraph explanation of the circumstances behind the situation, along with an acceptance of responsibility and an outline of the actions the applicant has taken to ensure that the problem will not recur.
Final Notes on Addendums
- Write carefully. Tone and word choice are incredibly important when writing an addendum. Addenda are essentially asking admissions officers to ignore or disregard important parts of the application. You can easily sound like you’re groveling. Convey the information without boring or offending the admissions officer reading it. It needs to get the point across quickly and effortlessly, while still answering any questions that arise from your reason for writing an addendum.
- Keep it short. The longest any addendum should be is 1-2 pages, double-spaced. There’s no need to write an addendum that is longer than your personal statement. When addenda break the 250-word barrier, you risk rambling and creating more problems than you’re explaining.
- Don’t tell the admissions officers how to do their job. If, for example, you’re submitting materials explaining a particular grading curve or major at your college, make sure that the addendum simply presents the materials. Admissions officers know how to interpret it and will understand it is a supplement to your file. You don’t need to interpret it for them.
- Keep it drama-free. Overselling the case or overstating the flaws tends to remove any seriousness from the addenda and renders it useless. You’re not trying to tug at heartstrings or solicit pity, so veer away from dramatic language.
- Stick to facts. Don’t provide unnecessary information. Unnecessary details can detract from the message you are seeking to convey.
- No flights of fancy. Addenda have and require no element of creative writing in them. This is simply an explanation and presentation of circumstances.
- Understand this is not an excuse. What you’re providing is additional information to consider during the evaluation of an application. Present the facts clearly, discuss lessons learned, and what you’re doing to ensure the negative doesnt happen again. Excuses are just that–excuses.