Graduate programs differ in what is required to apply. Be sure to follow the instructions given by the specific program you are applying to. Here are some key tips to help you prepare to apply.
Prepare your application
Common components of a grad school application include a Curriculum Vitae (CV) or resume and a statement of intent or personal statement. Other documents may also be requested.
Just like a job search, your resume or Curriculum Vitae should be tailored to the graduate program you are applying for. Highlight the skills, achievements, and experiences that reflect your accomplishments and fit with the program.
If an application requires a personal statement or letter of intent, give yourself time to reflect, edit, and refine. This is the opportunity to share how you envision your professional career advancing into something substantial based upon past experiences. Be sure to tailor your statements for the different programs and schools you are applying to.
Research what standardized tests may be required for your application and the timelines for completing those.
Find a research supervisor, if applicable to your program
Find out if you are expected to identify a supervisor prior to the application process, or if you will select your supervisor after you have enrolled.
Your choice of supervisor can have a significant influence over the next few years of your academic journey. Look for someone whose research interests and philosophy align well with your own.
If possible, reach out to past students to find out what their experience was like working with a particular supervisor.
Asking for references
References are a crucial part of your application process. Academic references can come from past professors who have some knowledge of your academic work and performance. Professional references can come from someone who has supervised you in a work or volunteer context. If you know you will have a gap between degrees, it may be helpful to keep in contact with professors during this time.
When asking for a reference, ask well in advance, ideally 1 to 2 months. It is often helpful to specifically ask if someone can provide you with a strong and positive reference. Provide your reference with clear information about the deadline and process for submitting their document, as well as any supporting documents including your resume or Curriculum Vitae, statement of intent, and link to program website.
Be sure to thank someone for writing you a reference, and let them know the outcome of your application process.