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this is a long one. sorry boutcha.

21 Oct

I’ve had a request to post a lil’ about getting into graduate school. I’m giving a presentation next week to NSSLHA about this topic so I’m all ready to go! (ADDENDUM: I don’t know anything about using CSDCAS so don’t ask me!)

I’ll try to do this in steps so you can check things off as you go.

1. Make a list of schools you’re interested in and a pros and cons list if you have more than…six. I went to a presentation by Donald Asher my senior year and he said six was a good number. 2 reach, 2 safe, 2 middle of the road.

2. Once you have that list, make a check list for each school‘s requirements. Schools are weird, they can’t all just have a uniform manner in which they accept applications. Different deadlines, different costs, different expectations, different requirements. BE VERY CAREFUL HERE. If you eff it up, you’re OUT.

3. Compile. Get it together. Make a resume/Curriculum Vitae. Write a personal statement (I’ll blog a different time about writing a personal statement). Get your references in line. Start requesting transcripts yesterday.

4. Send in your actual application and fee as soon as possible. That way you’ll be on file and they’ll have a safe place to keep your stuff. The actual application shouldn’t be hard to do – it’s just the general things they need to know about you.

5. Ask people for recommendations as early as humanly possible. Schools vary on how many recommendations you need, but expect about three. I’d try to get them from people in your major who can write you STRONG letters of recommendation. Ask in person – “Would you be willing to write me a strong letter of recommendation for graduate school?”

6. Make the life of your recommender EASY. Give them a folder with everything they need in it. Supply your CV, your transcripts, your personal statement. Some schools may have a specific form they want your recommender to fill out, some may have an online survey, some just want a letter. Provide an addressed and stamped envelope and tell them the specifics about that letter. Some schools want YOU to mail it with all of your other stuff, but many want your recommender to seal it and sign it on the seal and mail it themselves. Once again, be very careful here, get it right the first time.

7. Also on that note, your school may require that you fill out a “waiver of rights” so recommenders may talk freely about your grades. Provide each person with a waiver about each school.

8. Transcripts suck. They take forever, they cost money, they never go to the right place. It’s a disaster so get started early. And remember to get transcripts from every school you attended – even if you did dual credit your junior year of high school through the community college.

9. Get your resume/CV together and edited by EVERYONE. You don’t want to look like a dummy with typos. And if your GPA isn’t AWESOME feel free to just mention the last 60 hours. (I mean, if they specifically ask your GPA, tell them, but on your resume you can put “3.45/4.00 last 60 hours”).

10. FOLLOW UP ON YOUR LETTERS OF REC. Ugh. Okay. This is the worst but it has to happen. Sometimes it is Christmas break, you gave all of your stuff to your recommender in October, and you get an email from your schools saying “We have two of three letters of recommendation” – sometimes they tell you who they’ve gotten them from. So it’s easy to narrow it down. You must hunt that person down and kindly, gently, nudge them to write that letter. They’ve likely just forgotten because they’re crazy busy just like you – they appreciate the reminder even if you feel awkward doing it. ON THAT NOTE – when you hand them the folders with all of the stuff they need – label that folder “YOUR NAME, The date you provided them with the folder, and the school it is for” – some people just do one folder for all their schools but I made an individual folder for each school and each professor.

11. Oh, and you can ask the same professor to write you multiple letters. And tell them which school you REALLY want. Professors want to help you, I promise.

12. Right, right, right before the deadline CALL the school and MAKE SURE they have received EVERYTHING. You might feel like you’re bugging them, but you’ll feel better once you do it. Especially if you applied to several schools. I’ve seen it happen where it is two days before the deadline and someone finds out a school never got their transcript. (Usually a school will accept an unofficial transcript until a real one gets to them – just FYI)

13. Once it is all said and done, you’ll start receiving notice in the mail (may go to your parents’ home) after spring break. And rejections come first. So if you haven’t heard from your number one school and it is early April don’t stress yet.

14. After that, write your thanks-you’s to the people who wrote your recommendations. Literally write them. On thank you cards. In pen. I waited until I got my decisions from schools because I didn’t want them to think I was sucking up to them (even though I sucked up to them all of the time any way because I am a suck up.)

15. If you get into multiple schools you’ll need to pick a school and write an acceptance letter by the date they give you. You’ll also have to write refusal letters. You can Google how to do that.

The end. If you want to know more about the types of graduate schools to apply to I wrote this last spring: for the chitlins

NP: Conor Maynard – Marvin’s Room (gorgeous. gorgeous. gorgeous cover.)