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In many industries, a graduate level education is becoming more and more important. It opens many more doors and provides advancement opportunities that are often beyond what you could expect as an undergrad. Since graduate degrees are becoming more valuable to prospective employers, more students are considering continuing their education to get a Master’s degree or higher. Competition can be intense when applying for graduate programs, and so it is very important to make sure you provide your prospective school with a complete graduate application that stands out. Here are 4 ideas that can help you:

1)     Start the application process early. Starting early is important for multiple reasons. It gives you the time you need to complete the application without having to rush things. It allows you to spend time on your personal statement and getting your admissions testing completed. An early start shows drive and motivation, something that graduate schools like. Finally, it allows time for any issues or snags that might arise with the application process.

2)     Read and follow the directions on the application to the letter. This can be very important. Some schools will not accept an application that is incomplete or has been filled out incorrectly. An application that is completed incorrectly can hurt your chances of being admitted. Take your time with the application and make sure that it is completed correctly and that it reflects your best effort and work.

3)     Consider your letters of recommendation carefully and ask for them early.  Just like when you applied for college, your graduate program is going to request letters of recommendation. Think carefully about who you’d like to ask to write you a letter. Make sure those you ask know you well and know your work well, so that they can write something that is personalized and meaningful. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to include specific information regarding their experience with you – such as a specific time you did well on a project in their class, your volunteer activities, or other information you think would be of interest to your prospective school. Asking for them early gives the person writing the letter plenty of time to write, in order to receive them before the application deadline. Don’t be afraid to follow up with those you’ve asked for a letter of recommendation, to make sure it is completed and remind them of your deadline.

4)     Your personal statement could be the most important part of your application. Think about it. Your test scores are likely similar to those of other applicants. Your transcripts show grades that you no longer have any control over. The meat of the application gives mainly demographic and historical data about you. The personal statement is your one chance to show your prospective school who you are – and more importantly, why you should be accepted into their program. It gives you a voice that can tell a story about how you came to love the discipline you’ve chosen and how you will be able to apply your knowledge in the future to benefit yourself and others. Start on your personal statement early and give it a lot of time. Have as many people as you can read your personal statement and give you feedback. Ask friends to proofread it and make sure that there are no grammatical errors in the document.

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