As a second-year grad student in the Public Policy department at UMBC, I remember clearly applying to grad school and all of the anxieties that came with it. It doesn’t have to be so scary. With a little confidence in yourself and plenty of preparation, you can make applying to grad school as stress-free as possible. In addition to this blog post, consider going to the Grad School 101 workshop the Career Center is hosting on October 17th in the Skylight lounge from 4 pm to 8 pm. You must register to get in, but it is a free conference for all UMBC students that are considering applying for grad school. More information here. Also, we have a graduate school guide available on our website!
The first step in applying to grad school is to do your research. What kind of school are you looking for? Do you need to take standardized tests beforehand? If so, which tests? Looking for the right grad school is very similar to looking for your undergrad. What programs are you interested in, is the school the right environment for you, are they nearby or will you need to relocate? These are the questions you should ask yourself when looking for your school. Once you’ve found your school, familiarize yourself with the required documents and applications that the school asks for.
For example, when I was applying to grad school through UMBC’s BA/MPP Accelerated Learning program, I didn’t need to take standardized tests to apply. Medical schools, however, will likely require the MCAT. So, knowing what you need to start is the most important first step. Make a list! Don’t scramble at the last minute to gather everything you need. You should also consider reaching out to the faculty and staff in your program of choice, ask for information, scout for a potential mentor you can connect with, and become informed of how the program is run.
The next step is to consider your letters of recommendation. Choose the mentors and faculty that you feel will give you a good recommendation and connect with them at least a year in advance. Discuss your school choices and programs with them. Be sure to bring a copy of your unofficial transcript and your resume to these meetings. Take advantage of the Career Center to polish that resume! If they agree to write a recommendation letter for you, give them the due dates that their letters should be mailed or emailed by and to whom they are sending them. Be sure to send a reminder a few days before and always follow up with a thank you letter!
When it’s time to apply, prepare for, and take your standardized tests with plenty of time to take them over again. Gather your resume, official transcripts, and personal statement (the Career Center helps with those too!), fill out any online applications and finalize your application. Be sure to stay consistent, use the same legal name on all documents, triple-check for errors, and be knowledgeable of where you’re sending your applications.
Finally, take the leap. Send your documents, test scores, and completed applications to the schools you’ve chosen. With all of the preparation and hard work you’ve put in, you’re sure to get in!