3 Tips for Preparing Graduate School Applications

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Have you decided to go back to school for a master’s degree? Many life sciences professionals who want to apply to graduate school, have some anxiety around submitting their applications. A lot of graduate programs are highly competitive with a large pool of applicants. Even if you have an above average GPA from your undergraduate studies, putting your best foot forward on your graduate school application is very important. It’s not uncommon for aspiring students to be rejected because they didn’t provide enough detail or complete certain aspects of the application (in comparison to others).

What makes you stand out as the ideal student in a specific program? Can you write a personal statement or essay that outlines how you are a good fit? Busy professionals often overlook the time needed to adequately plan for the application process.  Depending on your master’s program of interest and your personal qualifications, you might need to take months (or years) to develop into the type of candidate that is admitted. As a preliminary step, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with an admissions counselor at each university you want to apply to. The specific details they provide about their university will be valuable. These are three additional tips on preparing applications for graduate school!

  1. Start studying and reading more

Many colleges require that applicants take the GRE, MCAT, or some other exam that assesses how ready you are for graduate level work. If the program you’re targeting requires that you take a test, it’s beneficial for you to start studying months or years in advance. Since many aspiring graduate students are working professionals, they don’t have large amounts of time to focus solely on their studies. In this case, more intense planning and time management are usually helpful to be successful. Another helpful habit is to start reading an additional hour or two per day, to help you get in the mindset of a student.

  1. Get clear on your purpose

Recently, we explored four ways to know if you should get a master’s degree. Why do you want to apply to your selected school? Why do you want to apply for their master’s program specifically? Understanding the answers to those questions will make it easier to fill out your applications and write any personal statements or essays necessary. Getting clear on your purpose, allows you to utilize the information behind your motivation in a variety of ways. In addition to helping you stay energized throughout the application process, you’ll be able to explain to others why obtaining the degree will enhance your career. Students with a strong sense of purpose are also more likely to finish their degree programs.

  1. Decide on your ideal academic / professional contacts

Submitting letters of recommendation is an imperative part of the majority of graduate school applications. Have you thought about who might be the best contacts in your network to write letters for you? If you are a recent undergraduate alum, you might still have connections with your previous professors.  In that instance, think about courses where you had a high grade and participated heavily in. If you received your undergraduate degree 5+ years ago, it can be more difficult to provide academic references.  If that applies to you, consider professional colleagues from organizations and associations you are a part of. In most cases, your letters of recommendation shouldn’t come from a strictly personal reference.


Preparing applications for graduate school can lead to stress and anxiety because you want to present yourself in the best light. After speaking with an admissions counselor for your program of choice, there are some things you can do to enhance your application, prior to submission. Planning to study ahead of taking any entrance exams required, is a good idea. Dedicating more time to reading can get you back in the mind frame of studying, research, and analysis. Having clarity around your purpose, will usually shorten the total amount of time completing an application by reducing brainstorming and writing time for essays and statements of purpose. Finally, deciding on the ideal professional and academic contacts in your network, allows you to quickly reach out for letters of recommendation. What would make preparing graduate school applications easier for you?

Porschia Parker-Griffin is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. (https://www.fly-highcoaching.com) She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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