How to Prepare for Applying to Graduate School

While not for everyone, a graduate degree can offer students a chance to study a topic at a more in-depth level than at the undergraduate level, with the chance of earning more income due to their specialized knowledge.



Before you even think about starting an application to grad school, take a brutally honest look at your academic track record: realistically, are your marks high enough to put you in the top echelon of applicants? If not, do you have something else going for you that'll set you apart from your competitors? If the answer to both questions is a "no", you may want to amend that before applying.

Further, most top-tier American colleges prefer students to jump straight from a BA into a PhD, requiring you to really have a sterling academic transcript. The difference between a BA and PhD isn't necessarily that the material is heaps harder—although it will be at a more challenging level—but how it's presented and how you have to work will change. You'll be expected to take near-total control of your studies, with research and writing skills being more important than ever before.



Depending on the program and school of the graduate degree you're looking at, you can be facing anywhere from dozens to thousands of other competitors for the same spot, so making your presence felt is a massive understatement. Talk to your professors—as people, not as those in positions of intellectual authority—and get to know them. Ask them about grad school and tell them of your plans and goals. If you can convey why you want it and why you'd be good at it, you stand a better chance of getting in and receiving good reference letters.

Research and Experience

Grad schools love to see applicants with a well-rounded CV, meaning that you should be part of school groups, have volunteer experience, and show a previous interest in your chosen field of study. For example, if you're thinking of applying for a Masters in chemistry, your CV will stand out a lot more if you already have experience working and/or volunteering in a lab.


Most grad school programs call for a minimum of reference letters, a statement of intent, at least one copy of your transcript, and samples of your work, with GRE scores—among other test scores, depending on the school—not uncommon. There are also strict deadlines, with missing one possibly meaning the difference between moving onto the next round and missing out entirely, no matter how qualified you are. Keep track of everything you need and write it down on a calendar so you don't forget.

Facebook post: If you're thinking of applying to grad school, read these 4 tips first—they could make the difference between acceptance or rejection!