Step 3: Take Admissions Tests and Complete Applications
This part of the process requires a high attention to detail. Keep all your application materials together, read them carefully, and develop a system to track what is needed for each program you are applying to and when you sent your materials in.
Test Information & Registration
The first part of this step is studying for, registering for, and taking your standardized test. Depending on which type of graduate program you choose, you may need to take a different admissions test. It is most likely that you would be required to take one or more of the following:
- GRE Online The Graduate Record Exam is the admissions test used for most graduate programs. The GRE General Test includes three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. You can take the GRE General Test as either computer-based or paper-based. For computer-based, your scores will be available roughly 10-15 days after your test date. For paper-based, it will be approximately six weeks after your test date that your scores will be available. You can find information on test centers and how to register here.
- GRE Computer Science Major Field Test You might also be required to take the Major Field Test for Computer Science, which consists of 66 multiple-choice questions.
- Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) If you plan to pursue a business degree, you might need to take the GMAT.
Preparing for your admissions test is critical. Being familiar with the format and style of the tests and refreshing your skills in writing, as well as analytical and quantitative reasoning will lead to a better score.
The sites below will also offer you information on test preparation courses and programs.
There are two main rules when it comes to applications. Follow the rules and adhere to deadlines. In some cases, the earlier you complete your application is complete, the better your chances for admittance. Although each application is different they typically have four key sections: Application Form & Resume, Reference Letters, Personal Statement, and Transcript Report.
Application Form & Resume The application form is pretty straight forward and will ask you information similar to that of college applications. Most applications are on-line and can either be filled out and then printed or submitted electronically. Most graduate school applications will be found on the individual university sites. In many cases, a resume is required as part of the application. Applications for graduate study are usually due between December 1 and March 1 prior to the fall of admission.
Personal Statement Personal statements vary widely from application to application. Some ask you to respond in point to a series of questions while others provide a list of questions they would like you to cover in a single essay. It is very important that you answer all questions and adhere to the length guidelines provided. The essay is used to determine several criteria including writing style, motivation, program fit, and clarity of career goals. These are all important to graduate institutions in determining the likely hood of program completion. You should write several drafts of your personal statement, and many eyes should review it before you submit it. Make sure a faculty member and/or a Career Services advisor reviews it for you.
Recommendation Letters Choose your references wisely, and make sure you carefully check the instructions for each application to be sure you’ve selected the correct mix of recommenders. Choose faculty members, staff advisors or supervisors, internship or employment supervisors that know you very well and that you know will speak highly of you. Once you decide who you would like to ask to write a letter of recommendation for you, you should ask him or her as soon as possible, preferably in the summer prior to your senior year or in the first month of classes. You should provide each of your recommenders with the necessary forms (filled out properly), an addressed and stamped envelope, and a copy of your resume (unless otherwise instructed in your applications). If your personal statement is completed, include that as well. You should give your recommenders at least one month advance notice for each recommendation, although the first one they write will require the most amount of time.
Transcripts To complete your graduate school application, you will need to request official transcripts from the registrar’s office. It’s important that you allow enough time for your transcripts to be processed, keeping in mind that you’re likely not the only student applying to graduate or professional school in the late fall or early spring. You’ll find all the information you need here.
What now? Once you’ve completed and mailed your applications (or submitted them online), it is important to call the graduate admissions office and in many cases the graduate program itself to make sure that your materials have been received and your application is on file.