The most common standardized test for non-business graduate school applications is the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. Most programs require the GRE revised General Test, which assesses verbal, quantitative, and analytical ability. The General Test is administered on computer and can be taken by appointment most days of the year. Some graduate programs also require a GRE Subject Test (these are available for Biochemistry; Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology). These paper-administered tests are offered only three times per year (in October, November, and April), so it's important to schedule them carefully to meet application deadlines.
Many graduate programs for business require the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT. The GMAT assesses verbal, quantitative, and analytical ability. It is administered on computer and can be taken by appointment year-round.
A Personal Statement, or Statement of Purpose, is an important qualitative piece of your application. It is a way for the Admissions reader to get to know “you” apart from your numbers: your personality, your motivation, how your life experience has culminated in this application, and how you intend to contribute to this graduate school and the profession. Moreover, the Personal Statement demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively.
- Allow sufficient time to write, revise, and polish this essay. Do not underestimate its importance for a successful application.
- Be attentive to any prompt. Answer the question asked.
- Be sure to include the educational and extracurricular experiences that have prepared you for graduate school, your motivation and career goals, along with an indication of why this program is a good fit for you.
- Do not simply provide your resume in narrative form.
- Be attentive to language, and proofread several times.
- Work on your opening. Try to grab the reader's attention.
Letters of Recommendation
Graduate programs have different requirements for letters of recommendation. Be attentive to these (try to get at least three letters if no number is specified). Think carefully about who you will ask to write for you. The most effective are letters from faculty who know you well (and think highly of you). Sometimes a letter from a professional outside the university, with whom you have worked closely and developed a significant relationship, can also be helpful.
Make an appointment to meet with your potential recommender. Bring to this meeting a copy of your updated resume and a draft of your Personal Statement (if possible). (If it has been a while since you had this professor for a class, you might also bring along a copy of graded work, as a reminder.) Tell the professor about your interests and plans, and ask if he or she knows you well enough to write a positive letter of recommendation. Although this can feel awkward, it will have one of two significant results: either an affirmative answer (so you know that you'll be getting a positive recommendation) or a negative answer (so you will be able to ask someone else and thus obtain a positive recommendation).
Plan ahead so that your recommenders will have sufficient time to write and submit their letters. Give them the necessary information, such as e-mail addresses and addressed, stamped envelopes for hard copies. Ask them if they'd like a follow-up reminder closer to the deadline. Remember to let them know about your application results, and thank them.
Have official transcripts sent from the Registrar to your graduate programs.