Graduate Admission: The DOs and DON'Ts

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The graduate school admissions process is not just completing a graduate school application and sending it in. Applying can be complicated and time-consuming. From filling out stacks and stacks of forms to trying to make a good impression on the graduate school admission committee, there's a whole lot to do.

This list will help you get the job done well and on time!

The DOs for the graduate admission process

  • DO start your graduate school application one to one-and-a-half years before you plan to enroll.
  • DO make sure you double-check all your deadlines -- they may be different than undergraduate deadlines.
  • DO make every element of your application the best it can possibly be.
  • DO get your financial aid application in as early as possible. Financial aid for grad school is limited.
  • DO fill out your financial aid application online, if possible.
  • DO read applications and directions carefully.
  • DO make sure that everything that is supposed to be included is enclosed.
  • DO start asking for letters of recommendation at least six months before your application deadline.
  • DO fill out your own applications. Type the information yourself to avoid crucial mistakes.
  • DO make copies of all applications, and practice filling one out before you complete the original.
  • DO type or neatly print your answers, and then proofread the applications and essays several times for accuracy.
  • DO ask someone else to proofread them for you as well.
  • DO demonstrate that you are professional, focused, and very interested in the field you’ve chosen to study.
  • DO be truthful, and do not exaggerate your accomplishments.
  • DO keep a copy of all the forms you submit.
  • DO be thorough and turn things in on time.

The DON'Ts for the graduate admission process

  • DON'T use correction fluid. If you type your application, use a correctable typewriter or liftoff strips to correct mistakes. Better yet, fill out your application online.
  • DON'T write in script. If you don’t have access to a computer or typewriter, print neatly.
  • DON'T leave blank spaces. Missing information may cause your application to be sent back or delayed.
  • DON'T be unclear. If the question calls for a specific answer, don’t try to dodge it by being vague.
  • DON'T approach people about letters of recommendation at the last minute!
  • DON'T go overboard on your personal essay. Treat it as a professional application, not a creative project.
  • DON'T assume that the admission office has everything they need. Wait two or three weeks and then follow up to make sure.
  • DON'T put things off!

Your fulfillment of the graduate school requirements is how the school sees you. Following this list of DOs and DON'Ts will help you make a good impression on the admission committee.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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