So you want to go to graduate school. Great! I fully support that decision – going to grad school was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not because it catapulted me into some high-paying job (note: that’s not what grad school is for) but because it enriched my mind, advanced my skills, and made me happy.
I already worked in graduate admission when I started to seriously consider what I wanted to study – so maybe I had an advantage in preparing my application - but I see mistakes made every day that seem like common sense. Before you click send on that application of yours, make sure you’ve read these tips.
Use a professional email address: When I say professional this does not mean that which you use at your job. In fact, I recommend having an email address you’ll always have access to because – let’s face it – you won’t be at that job forever.
Once I was on the phone with a student who wasn’t familiar with the GRE. “Jerry? What’s the Jerry?” No, seriously, that’s what he said. As I looked up his record I confirmed his email address. “Sir, currently the email address we have is pay-pa,” before I realized what I was saying, I completed reading aloud, “chay-sa.”
Yes, his email address was basically Paper Chaser at any old service dot com. If you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see your email address (Fancy Lady, Tricky Sue, and Big Baller are all no-no examples), you don’t want a graduate committee to see it either.
Don’t rely on spellcheck: If I have to see one more writing sample that confuses the use of there/their/they’re one more time, I will give up my hard-earned English degree.
Print out your personal statement, writing sample, resume – whatever you need to submit – and read it carefully. Send it to a friend. (Heck, send it to me! I freelance edit and consult accept a very moderate payment via PayPal.)
Be nice to people on the phone: If you come off crazy, don’t think I won’t tell the program director to watch out for you. Plus, I’m more willing to pull some strings if you’re polite – you get more flies with honey, you know.
Read directions: 99% of the questions I get can be answered if they’d read it right the first time.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions: We’re here to help you - no matter how dumb you may think your question is, we’ve probably heard it before. If we haven’t, then it is probably a really good question.
Be patient: Expecting a response to your email or voicemail within a day is not unreasonable – expecting one within five minutes is. Think of how excited you are about this program! Now think about how many people are probably applying to this program. Multiply the two. That’s what the admission staff deal with every day. We want to help – I promise! – but we want to help everyone else, too.
All opinions and statements are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.