“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela
Education can drive change and progress in society but it also drives change and progress in one’s personal career. Perhaps that’s one reason why you’ve chosen to pursue further education through a Masters, PhD or Graduate Certificate.
Whether you’re a student fresh out of undergrad or a seasoned professional looking to advance your skills, there is one question on your mind: Where should I begin?
We know finding a starting point is half the battle, so we fought it for you. We put together an action plan that can help you get started on your Graduate School applications:
Research, Research, Research!
Do you know which college or university offers your dream program?
A good place to start is your alma mater. More likely than not, your alma mater will have a Graduate Program or certificate that matches your needs and specialization.
If it doesn’t, no problem! That’s why we have Google, friends and a professional network. Research online or ask family and friends for recommendations.
Here are some variables you may want to take into consideration when shortlisting:
- Location – are you willing to move to another city or country for your education? Is online an option?
- Application requirements and deadlines – do you still have time to apply or has the deadline passed?
- Finances – are you eligible for scholarships, bursaries or flexible finance options offered by the program or the government? Pro tip: check for application fees before you apply!
- The program and its value – dig deep into the program courses and gather as much information as you can. Is this program of value to you long-term in your professional field?
- Alumni network – how strong is the alumni network and can you leverage it for future work opportunities?
Mark those deadlines in a calendar!
Now that you’ve short-listed the programs and schools, let’s get to work and mark our calendars with each application deadline. Trust us – organization is key. This will help you work backwards to determine your priorities.
Set alerts and reminders on your phone if you must, but log in those dates and set some time to get your applications started.
Get your documents ready
Transcripts, resume and references are only a few of the essential documents required for any graduate program or certificate application. Depending on your particular field (business, science, journalism etc) and the university, you will need to provide additional appropriate documents like a portfolio.
For international students, proof of your level of English proficiency and a valid student visa is often a requirement in Canadian universities and colleges. Some universities require a TOFFEL, TOEIC or equivalent international English proficiency test score as proof of your English fluency. On the other hand, some universities only require proof that you have studied in Canada before, for example, a copy of your undergraduate degree from a Canadian university or college.
Please check all document requirements with the university or college you plan to apply to as far in advance as you can. In fact, call the admissions office just to make sure you have everything you need! Do not rely solely on the requirements listed on the website or their FAQ section.
Admission essays & cover letters
Here’s your moment to shine. This part of the application process allows you to strut your stuff. Each university or college will have different styles: some may ask multiple questions and some may ask for only a cover letter, letter of intent etc. There is often a word limit, 500 – 1000, so being succinct is important.
Whatever you encounter, keep in mind to showcase your personality and also your achievements in your writing. The goal is to convince them of these three factors:
- What you want to study in grad school
- Why you want to study it
- Why their institution is the best place for you
Don’t forget to proofread your essay or ask someone else to help before submitting.
Ah, the bittersweet days of submissions are now near. Like the fall weather, you’re excited for the cool breeze and the beautiful leaves but nervous for all the pumpkin-spiced beverages you’re going to encounter.
Nevertheless, you’re ready to take the next step in your academic and career journey by pursuing further education. And guess what? You’re going to ace it.
Pro tip: September to December is often the main time frame for admissions. If you have the deadlines recorded in your calendar and all of your prep work completed, then you’ll be ready to hit the submit button.
Good luck, fingers crossed, and stay positive no matter the outcome.