The truth about the process of applying to grad school and my advice for you.
As a senior here at UWT, not only have I spent the fall quarter stressing about my classes and responsibilities, but I also went through the grad school application process. Applying and going to grad school is a serious decision and takes a lot of thought and consideration. Many, including myself, spend two months working on their material presentation and even longer on research.
A grad school application is different from an undergrad application. In undergrad applications, you are simply sharing your interests and academic status. Grad school applications are more in-depth: since you now have a few years of college under your belt, admission boards are looking at the research and work you have done and what you plan to do with that in their program. There are quite a few things that I wish I had known before I went through the process.
First, be prepared to spend a ridiculous amount on application fees. This is important because most studentss will apply to multiple programs for a better chance at admission. There is often a fee attached to each application that is around $100. Budgeting and planning for this expense is one way to avoid that situation. Another would be to apply for scholarships and see if you apply for a fee waiver. Most students that receive funding from FAFSA are eligible for a fee waiver.
Second, investigate each program’s staff and faculty. Find someone in the program you might like to work with and try to get to know them a bit more. This is important to make sure the program you are applying to is the right fit. For example, as an American Indian Studies minor that plans to further that aspect of my education, I would want to investigate programs with strong Indigenous representation and involvement.
Third, give yourself time to get through the application. You don’t want to miss something vital that could cost you your spot in a program. Applications for PhD programs generally open in September and are due in December or early January. For a master’s program though it is usually due in January or February.
Lastly, find someone to mentor you through the process, preferably a professor with whom you have worked a considerable amount during your time as an undergraduate, who will write you a letter of recommendation. This will not only boost your application, but it will take care of one of the three letters of recommendation you are required to submit.
The process is overwhelming and going into it as the first graduate school student in my family doesn’t make it any easier, to say the least. It is vastly different from the undergraduate process and takes a lot more time and consideration. A positive aspect of the process is that it offers a chance for you to reflect on your undergraduate work, which is something that can help establish your passions and where you want to go from undergrad.