Senior year is a time to finally relax and kick back to celebrate an end to the undergraduate years — unless this was only just the beginning for you.
Many career paths require a master’s degree to advance while some professions hint that the added diploma gives you a more competitive edge.
Making the choice to apply to graduate school may have been a decision you planned all along. It could have been a last-minute commitment. Either way, all the anxiety and anticipation you experienced when applying to undergraduate programs comes rushing back with the graduate school application process.
Most applications give you a list of what is to be expected, however, that does not mean that it is the end of the process.
Even with the required tasks to be submitted, there are unseen steps that need years of preparation.
Obtain letters of recommendation from professors. They were required then, and they are required now.
Put together an adequate resume. Colleges and universities want to see what you have been doing in the last four years to further yourself toward a career. There needs to be an impressive internship, portfolio or some type of work experience to prove that time was not put to waste.
Make that familiar statement of purpose. It was done once before, and it is asked once again four years later. This time, it is not seeking out the same generic information admissions have already seen in the past. They want to know why you have dedicated years to a specific area of study, why it has kept you interested and how it is useful to future aspirations along with the program you are applying to.
Universities and colleges have class sizes ranging from hundreds of students to below the tens.
Depending on your personal major, there could have been times of having the same professor over the years in several classes or a different professor per course who never bothered to learn names. It becomes difficult to create a bond with someone who will never teach you again but might see you on commencement day once graduation comes. Keep up with at least one professor a semester so they can see an effort being made when the time for applications comes around. Creating more relationships provides more opportunities overall.
Internship directors are great for the recommendations, even if you were only working during a short seasonal position. Take the time to let them know who you are and stand out. Building connections does go a long way. Take it seriously. You will need it, if not for graduate applications, then for later job opportunities.
Building the perfect resume takes precision. Awards and honorable scholarships that have occurred during your years as an undergraduate are what they will look at. High school is long gone and the accreditations that happened over four years ago will not matter. Admissions want to see what campus organizations you joined, and your interests that lasted longer than the initial undergraduate expectations. Extracurriculars are still offered in college with even broader options than what was offered in high school. They want to see if you took advantage of these endless opportunities.
If a portfolio is required along with your bachelor's degree, the best work you have ever produced better be present. Admissions know the capabilities undergraduate students have and want to see who has exceeded those expectations. It takes a few months or longer to build an impressive portfolio with a variety of work in your field. Diversity among your pieces is sought out, not identical carbon copies of different subjects.
That great essay written about why you stand out as a candidate and the reasons the program should accept you all can lead to an interview. Graduate programs are likely to hold a Zoom call to get to know you beyond the information laid out on your application. Scratch everything you wrote in the statement of purpose because they already read it. It is now time for deeper and more thorough questions compared to the other applicants. A quick thirty minutes or less is all the time they need to know if a university wants you in its program. And absolutely nothing can compare to the anticipation awaiting the interview with a panel of people from your applied program.
Lastly, expect the waiting period of acceptance.