Once you’ve decided which grad schools you want to apply to, it’s time to start the all-consuming process of applications.
Even though this can be a stressful period, the best thing to do is to give yourself as much time as possible and stay focused. Pursuing graduate studies is incredibly rewarding. Besides, all this anxiety will be worth it when you’re studying at your dream school!
To ensure you put your best foot forward, make sure you avoid making these 5 common application mistakes.
1. You haven’t done your research
As a potential grad student, you shouldn’t choose a program based on location or accreditation alone. You need to get to know the school and program so you can determine if it’s right for you. Otherwise, you might come across as uninterested in your application.
Read everything you can about the school, scan program and class descriptions, follow the school (or department) on social media, subscribe to their email list, visit the school, and schedule a chat with current students or alumni. The more you know about your potential school, the more detail you can add to your application.
2. Your personal statement is lacking
Many students don’t fully understand what a personal statement entails, and therefore, end up writing one that isn’t very good. Your personal statement is your best opportunity to showcase who you are as a person and a student.
You want to keep a level of professionalism, so don’t be too conversational. Also, don’t use this statement as a place to list your accomplishments – that’s what your resume is for! Instead, invite the reader to get to know you personally by explaining your academic and employment background, career goals, and why you would be successful at the institution.
3. Your application summarizes your resume
Some students make the mistake of relying on their resume content to make up the bulk of their application. However, an admissions officer will already have access to your resume, so this approach will be redundant.
Instead, focus on a few experiences you have that will demonstrate your qualifications for the program. They can be pulled from your resume as long as you are able to expand on them in-depth. This method will go a lot further in showcasing your personality and career objectives.
4. You’re choosing the wrong recommendations
Finding the right person to write your recommendation letter can be challenging. Some students believe that a recommendation from the most prestigious individual at your university will wow an admissions committee. While this could be beneficial, it’s really only effective if you have a personal relationship with that person. If you don’t, how will they be able to speak to who you are as a person and why you would be a good fit?
Instead, choose someone who likes you and knows you well – they are much more likely to take the time to write a credible and positive recommendation. Remember: it’s the content of the letter, not the title of your recommender that will impress an admissions office.
You may also want to consider including a recommendation letter from your employer. This can be useful if you’re already working in the field you intend to study, or if your employer can discuss the skills you have that will contribute to your success in grad school.
5. You’re too generic, bragging, insincere, or have bad humour
If you’re copying and pasting your application for more than one school, you will likely run into problems. It’s important to tailor your application to each school. If you don’t, you could come off as insincere and disinterested in the school you’re applying to.
While you shouldn’t be afraid to show your personality and experiences, you might want to keep the humour to a minimum. What might seem witty to you may come across as immature to an admissions committee.
At the end of the day, you want your application to put your unique skills and experiences in the best possible light. Take your time, proofread, and start your grad school applications as early as possible to set yourself up for success. Good luck!