10 Grad School Application Hacks That Will Boost Your Chances Of Getting Accepted

Female student studying in a library

We spoke to two experts to find out what it really takes to get into the grad school of your dreams.

BAUCEs don’t kind of apply to grad school, or kind of earn a graduate degree, they put in work and trust the process. BAUCE or not, gaining acceptance to a graduate program is a full-time job in itself.

According to The Complete Start-To-Finish MBA Admissions Guide, there is an application timeline for three types of applicants; the well prepared, typical, and the last minute MBA applicant. I’m betting this theory applies to other graduate degree programs as well.

I’ve curated a handful of grad school application hacks and tips from the contrasting perspectives of a current graduate school admission counselor and a newly enrolled graduate student. These two BAUCE ladies share helpful insight, and strategies to use when applying to your dream school.

My interview with Mrs. Karen Rankin, Admission Counselor for Hampton University’s Graduate College highlights certain aspects to apply and snares to avoid within your grad school application process. See her advise in pieces of our Q&A throughout this article.

Christina Romeo is an enrolled graduate student studying political science at the Rockefeller College, University at Albany (Class of 2020), and is an active board member of the organization GLSEN. Previously, Romeo worked as an English and College Writing Teacher at Huntington Learning Center, and currently interns at the public relations and media firm SKDKnickerbocker.

1. Pay attention to your prospective school deadlines, admissions office events, and requirements.

Each graduate program has a unique application deadline policy. Some programs feature rolling admissions, others utilize multiple acceptance rounds, and most publish average entrance exam scores. Know your school’s policy and approach your studies, testing, and essay writing accordingly.

Foster an early relationship with the admissions offices, and attend any events pertaining to your program.

2. Begin working on your applications early.

“Applicants should prepare the graduate school application 6-8 months prior to the application due date,” Mrs. Rankin told us.

3. Schedule your graduate entrance exam early.

Testing center spaces fill up quickly so schedule your exam weeks, if not months in advance. Certain exams and locations allow you to visit a testing center prior to your test date, which can help gain invaluable perspective.

4. Make your recommendation requests early, and strengthen relationships in your network.

“Choose references who know you very well.  Ensure the recommender is familiarized with the program and is able to provide details about your skills, unique values and potential contributions to the discipline,” Mrs. Rankin said. The recommender should also be able to describe your character, tenacity, and diligence.”

5. When preparing for your exam, find a study schedule you can commit to.

Any graduate exam, whether it’s the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, NAPLEX, or another major test, requires intense focus and dedication to your study schedule (flashcards still apply). You should plan to spend consecutive hours, multiple times a week studying, as well as take a few full-length practice exams imitating the real experience. It’s not a bad idea to get some help in preparing, but be sure to do your research into Kaplan GRE test prep or any tutoring service before you invest your money.

6. Study smarter AND harder. Practice, practice, practice.

You can make studying complex material more interesting, and even fun, by getting creative with your technique. A popular tool for students and educators alike is Quizlet, a free mobile and web-based study app. Quizlet trains students using flashcards from over 140 million user-generated flashcard sets, games and tests.

“As an undergraduate, I used Quizlet for my political science and history courses that had many terms and events to memorize. I’m a visual learner, so the option to create mind maps with my terms, helped with comprehension,” Christina said. “With graduate school on the horizon and working full time, this app on my phone and computer helps me study on the go.”

7. Schedule time to brainstorm and outline your essays before you begin writing drafts.

“Those applicants who submit a well-prepared personal statement are impressive,” Mrs. Rankin said. “The personal statement provides the applicant with an opportunity to present themselves to the departmental review committee and to describe their professional and personal short and long-term goals. It is important to include how earning a degree in a specific field will further [their] careers as well as contribute to the larger society.”

“Applicants should remember that there is no substitute for a well-crafted personal statement or well-written letters of recommendation that outline the applicant’s strengths, and how they have overcome any challenges or obstacles.”

8. Apply early enough to be eligible for scholarships, grants, and fellowships.

A major pitfall graduate applicants should avoid? “Applying after the application due date,” Mrs. Rankin said.

9. Prepare for your interview offer and be proactive.

Many admissions teams offer prospective graduate students interviews by offer only. However, this is not the policy of every program. If possible, schedule your own interview. Your official interview offer may require travel to campus, online video chat capability, or a meeting with program alumni.

10. Keep your cool during the process and come up for air.

A day or two before your exam relax and mentally prepare. Cramming this late will be of little use. Treat your body well and perform any self-care routines.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. mwcphd

    September 6, 2019 at 11:50 am

    I think that one more important thing to do is to evaluate the job market that will be waiting you on the other side. Many professors are completely out of touch with how competitive it is and end up (sometimes unintentionally) leading potential grad students astray in their pitch of “you could become a professor like me.”

    Not that grad school is a bad idea (often times it’s great!), but that it should be critically evaluated against other options.

    Thanks for sharing!

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