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Preparing for Graduate Application Season
Getting ready to head into your final year of undergrad and thinking about applying for grad school next year? You might think that you’ve got the whole application thing down—you applied to undergrad and got in, so it can’t be that hard. Right? Applying to graduate school is a whole new monster. (full story below)
Getting ready to head into your final year of undergrad and thinking about applying for grad school next year? You might think that you’ve got the whole application thing down—you applied to undergrad and got in, so it can’t be that hard. Right?

Applying to graduate school is a whole new monster. Graduate programs require a big stack of irritating and difficult paperwork, records, test scores, and letters of recommendation. Some graduate schools even have two separate applications—one for the program you’re applying to, and one for the overall graduate school. The process can be tricky and frustrating, especially if you’re planning to apply to more than one or two schools.

The summer before the fall application period opens is the best time to start preparing. When I was getting ready to apply for MFA programs, and then later for PhD programs, I developed a system that helped me stay sane once application time rolled around. Here are some tips for those of you getting ready for graduate application season.

Take any exams now.
At minimum, you will probably need to take the GRE, or Graduate Record Exam, before applying to graduate school. Depending on what field or program you’re going into, you might need other tests—GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, or others. You want to make sure you have at least 6 weeks to get your scores before applying, so I recommend taking the test (or tests) early in the summer. You might have a chance to retake them, then, if you don’t get the score you want.

Talk to professors and mentors about letters of recommendation.
Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for letters. Talk to the professors or mentors you want to ask for letters, and let them know your plans. If the letter is on their radar earlier on, they’ll be more prepared later when it comes time to write it. Scrambling for letters at the last minute is stressful, especially when professors are busy teaching during the fall semester.

Make a list of schools and their requirements.
When I first started applying for grad school, I made checklists for each school I was applying to. I did all my research for each school, finding out GPA minimums, test score requirements, and what documents they would need when I applied. These checklists helped me as I started my applications, as they kept track of what I still needed to turn in and what was already done.

Look for fees and fee waivers.
Graduate applications can be expensive. Some fees are upwards of $80-$100 per application. But, some schools have fee waivers available to applicants that can prove a financial need. I found a few of these gems while applying, and while they might require an extra errand to your financial aid office to get forms signed, it’s worth it. Do some digging and see if any schools you’re applying to offer these. Otherwise, start budgeting for the fees. Consider application fees, transcript fees, and test fees, and start putting away some cash to use when it comes time to apply.

With a little bit of pre-application prep, your application process will be a lot less stressful.

Source: http://www.hackcollege.com/blog/2016/06/20/preparing-for-graduate-application-season.html
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