Lion's Gate at the University of Aberdeen
In this, the last of the posts on Graduate School, we take a look at some of the nitty-gritty, practical procedures of the application process.
Two years before Graduation: This is the time to begin researching programs to figure out what the admissions requirements are. If you think you’ll be headed to an institution requiring the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), you should buy books or CD-ROMS and start studying for the exam and taking the practice tests.
Two years before Graduation: Start saving money. Taking the GRE costs between one and two hundred dollars as does each program application. If you have the good fortune to be accepted at more than one place, you’ll want travel money to make campus visits to help you decide.
Two years before Graduation: If you’re considering a traditional graduate program in English, you should make sure you take all four survey courses (that is, LIT 341, LIT 342, LIT 371, and LIT 372) as an undergraduate.
One year before Graduation: Consider developing a focused SDIS (independent study) for the summer preceding your senior year. Many programs want to see a longer, scholarly writing sample (12-20 pages) and the senior Capstone (in Spring) occurs too late for most October application deadlines.
One year before Graduation: Go online to find out when GREs are being proctored at locations near you. You need to have the results to submit with your application materials in October. Keep in mind that you can sit for the exam more than once. That said, an admissions committee looks more favorably on someone who scores high on the first attempt than someone who finally scores high after multiple attempts.
Six months before Graduation: Apply to your selected graduate programs! If you’re sure that you’re well-qualified for a particular program and you’ve spoken to a representative about it, you might choose to apply to that program and no other. More traditional graduate students, however, should apply to a range of programs. For instance, even if you have a 4.0 and high GRE scores, so do scads of other applicants, and some programs, such as the U of Delaware, for instance, are choosing only twelve students from the entire nation to join their Master’s program in any given year. So, yeah, it can be pretty competitive to get into those highly-ranked programs.
Because the rejection rate is so high, most students protect themselves by applying to at least three (and usually five or six) different programs: a “safety” school (not particularly highly ranked, takes in many grad students because of freshman comp teaching, lower admissions standards), a dream school (I’ll never get in, but I meet the admissions criteria, so here goes!), and a couple of programs where you think you’ll likely end up.
Three months to one month before Graduation: If you’ve been accepted to multiple programs (congratulations!), do visit the campuses, meet the other grad students, and discuss your choices with your professors, both here and at the various universities so you can decide where you really want to spend the next 3-13 years of your life.