tips for applying to graduate school

10 Tips for Applying to Grad School

Applying to graduate school is a huge feat — one you shouldn’t overlook or minimize. Making the decision to apply for graduate school means you’re paving the path for a more successful future. So, if you’ve already taken the leap and gone through the necessary steps, feel free to use this moment to give yourself a much-deserved pat on the back (don’t worry, we’ll wait).

However, for many looking to better their future with an advanced degree, the process of applying to grad school may seem intimidating. In order to take the next step in your academic career, it’s necessary to clarify your professional and personal goals. That way, you can ensure you’re applying to the appropriate schools, submitting the correct application materials, and covering all your bases throughout the process.

To help make this undertaking slightly less overwhelming, we’ve compiled a list of 10 tips for applying to grad school. Read along to check off all the boxes on your journey to achieving your professional goals.

Congratulations on this exciting venture — now let’s dive into your next steps!


1. Find your “why?”

Before you start typing away at your personal statement or sending out a plethora of applications to any school that slightly piques your interest, it’s vital to make sure that you’re choosing to attend graduate school for the right reasons. What are your professional goals? Is grad school necessary to uplevel your career?

You want to ensure that you’re attending grad school because you want to, not because other people expect you to. After all, it’s going to be a challenge — are you sure you’re up for it? And it’s important to note that grad school will always be waiting. There are no time restraints when pursuing higher education. If you’re unsure about your next step, use this time to do your research and search through your own feelings so you can figure out what you want to do next.

Once you’ve established that graduate school is the ideal next step for you, then you can go ahead and start your Googling.

2. Plan ahead


Now, on to the fun part — research! Set an afternoon aside to start investigating different graduate schools and their respective programs. Browse their websites, look at some of the different classes they offer, take a virtual tour of their campuses, read alumni success stories, and don’t forget to check out their social media channels to get a sense of the school’s vibe!

Compile a list of schools that fit your needs. Are you planning on moving for school or are you searching for a local or online program? Are you going to be a full-time or part-time student? Is faculty longevity and experience important to you, or are you more interested in the school’s alumni network?

It also doesn’t hurt to cast a wider net! Apply to several programs that align with your goals and interests to increase your chances of acceptance and allow for some flexibility. We suggest applying to somewhere between five and ten different programs. While this may feel monotonous during the application process, it’s helpful to have multiple options.

3. Research funding and financial aid

It’s imperative that you explore financial aid opportunities when applying for graduate school.

Research various funding options, including scholarships, fellowships, grants, and assistantships offered by the program, university, or external organizations. Apply for financial aid early and explore opportunities for scholarships, tuition assistance, and/or stipends.

4. Study up on the requirements


And now, the not-so-fun part: standardized tests.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospects, take notice of their various application requirements. Many educational institutions require standardized tests for admittance, such as the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

Depending on the type of graduate school you’re applying to, you might have to take a different kind of standardized test — LSATs for law school, MCATs for medical school, and so forth.

Make sure you know which kind of standardized test you’ll have to take. And if you’d rather not take a test, then check out some schools that don’t require the GRE.

If you are planning on taking the GRE, or another kind of specialized test, be sure to study and prepare! There are plenty of resources available online, such as prep courses and practice tests.

5. Seek guidance

Applying to graduate school is a big decision! Make sure to seek advice from those who have attended similar programs before you.

Reach out to friends, family members, co-workers, peers, and more. You can also reach out to admission officers of the schools you’re planning on applying to. Not only can these people provide you with helpful guidance, but they can also write letters of recommendation on your behalf or even connect you with alumni of programs you’re interested in.

It’s important to turn to your community when making big decisions. You never know who could help open some doors for you.

6. Craft a compelling statement


Next up: the dreaded personal statement.

Many graduate schools require applicants to write a personal statement expressing their interest in the program and displaying their academic expertise.

While the writing process may seem daunting, the personal statement is a great opportunity to stand out amongst a sea of applications. This will give the admissions board a better understanding of who you are (and who you will be as a student).

Think of some key components you’d like to touch upon in your essay. What are some factors about yourself that you think an admissions department should know? Why are you passionate about the field you’re hoping to study? Be sure to do some research by reading examples of other successful personal statements. And don’t forget to pass yours along to friends, family members, mentors, or former professors for proofreading and feedback.



Are you ready to take the leap and apply to graduate school? Learn more about our various academic programs at Goodwin University today!



7. Choose wisely for recommendations

Think back to those you sought guidance from in the early stages of researching graduate schools. Can you ask someone from your professional community to write you a letter of recommendation?

It’s important to select someone who has a good sense of who you are as a student or a professional; think of former professors, bosses, or coworkers. You want to choose someone who will write a strong letter that speaks not only to your personality but also your work ethic.

Additionally, it’s ideal to choose someone who’s an expert in the subject field you’re applying to.! If you’re going to graduate school for health sciences, it’s probably better to reach out to your former Biology professor rather than your English instructor. Remember to provide them with ample time to write their letter, and if they decline, don’t take it personally — good recommendation letters require a lot of thought and consideration, and sometimes people are just too busy!

8. Show, don’t tell

In your personal essay, resumé, and application, make sure to go beyond grades and test scores by highlighting relevant experiences like research projects, internships, and projects.

Describe your research roles, methodologies, and outcomes, emphasizing any publications or awards you’ve earned, or discuss internships and practical experiences that shaped your skills and passion for your field.

Make sure to include relevant projects outside of coursework, such as volunteering, and explain their impact on your goals. Connect these experiences to your academic and career aspirations to showcase your readiness for graduate studies.

9. Proofread ruthlessly


Personal statements and applications riddled with grammatical errors and careless typos do not give a good impression for admissions officers.

Make sure to proofread your entire application as meticulously as possible — multiple times over! Proofread once, then proofread again. Then ask a friend to proofread. And then … proofread some more!

Your entire application sets the tone for who you are as a student, and graduate schools don’t want careless students.

10. Go above and beyond

Research the faculty, their areas of expertise, and potential research alignments. Demonstrating knowledge of the program and its people shows genuine interest.

Tailor your application to the specific program — even if you’re applying to multiple schools. Be sure to attend conferences or networking events, if possible, to familiarize yourself with the faculty and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the program. This hard work will not go unnoticed!


Congratulations on diving into the exhilarating world of graduate school! This journey marks a thrilling new chapter in your academic adventure, and potentially in your professional future. Use these tips to stay organized as you work on your applications. And remember to sprinkle in some well-deserved mental health breaks along the way. After all, a clear mind and a touch of self-care are essential ingredients for success.


Ready to transform your career with a prestigious graduate degree? Explore our dynamic range of programs at Goodwin University and unlock your full potential today! Call 800-889-3282 or text 860-467-1511.