The task of filling out grad school applications is often overwhelming and taxing to even the most diligent of students. Surely, you have been encouraging students through the formidable undertaking of tracking application requirements, pinning down endless copies of transcripts and asking for letters of recommendation, but it’s all part of the big picture: Submitting the best grad school application possible. After all that hard work, students will want to make sure their application has a little extra edge to stand out from the pile. Here are a few quick tips to help your students put their best foot forward..
Check, Double Check, and Recheck
Make sure they have everything included in their grad school application packet: letters of recommendation, transcripts, personal essays, a completed application, etc. They don’t want the school to have to contact them to complete the application. If, for some reason, their application is missing a portion (say, GRE scores, because their scheduled test date is after the deadline for early admission), have them include a letter acknowledging the missing portion, detailing why it is missing, and laying out their plan for completing it.
Brag about Accomplishments
Students absolutely want to highlight their assets, which means they need to sell themselves. Make sure they draw attention to the fact they were the class president and a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, for example. All notable accomplishments and achievements should be included on their application. What students do not want to do, of course, is lie. Remind them that claiming they are fluent in four languages is just asking for trouble—and the fastest way to the rejection pile. They should brag, but keep it truthful.
These days, with so many excellent graduate school applications, admissions are getting tougher and more competitive. One way to stand out from the crowd is to have amazing GRE scores. Students cannot slack off when it comes to preparing for the GRE: They must study hard, take practice tests, and, if the scores fall short, retake the test.
Find Their Voice
As you know, the personal essay is a crucial part of any grad school application. Not only are admissions officers looking for essays that are well thought out and free of grammatical errors, but they also are looking to learn about the person behind the GPA. Students should avoid canned, cheesy answers to essay questions. Many students answer the question based on what they think admissions is looking for; however, the personal essay is the time to be real and get personal. Students can allow their personality, sense of humor, and character to shine through, as long as they maintain the professional tone of an admissions essay.
Reach Out to Students
A good way for students to understand what the admissions board is looking for is to speak with current students. Most programs arrange for class correspondents or appointed student relations members to speak with prospective students. They should tour the campus and pick the brain of someone who has been there, done that. Not only will it offer an inside look at the program, but it may give them an edge when it comes to admissions time, as well.
Lastly—and this should go without saying—applications should not be late under any circumstances. Many programs are overflowing with applicants, so late applications may not even be considered. Students should be encouraged to treat the admissions process as seriously as they would a job, so they can help the admissions board see what you already see: a hardworking student, ready for the next step.