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Graduate School Application Tips

Applying to graduate school is an exciting, yet challenging process. As a senior, who just went through this application process, I want to share some helpful tips that will hopefully help your student if they are interested in applying to graduate school.

First and foremost, begin your application early! While meeting the submission deadlines might seem obvious, completing all of the application requirements can take a considerable amount of time. Whether it be writing a personal statement, taking a standardized exam or providing official transcripts and reference letters, it is important to allow enough time to submit these supplementary application pieces. Applicants that wait until the last minute may run into technical errors or have questions that jeopardize their ability to apply on time. If your student expresses interest in applying to graduate school, encourage them to start this process at least a few months before each program’s due date. 

Reference letters are an instrumental part of a candidate’s application. It is critical that your student picks references that can attest to their hard work inside of the classroom along with their character. This is why it is so important for students to form connections with professors/ anyone they observe or intern for in the field they are pursuing. My freshman year biology professor really stood out to me and truly set the foundation for my study habits during my undergraduate years. I often stayed after class and attended office hours to talk to my professor about course content and research opportunities on campus. I am still in touch with this professor and she just wrote one of my letters of reference for Physical Therapy school. This is an example of how the “application process” can begin years before your student actually applies, as they can build connections with instrumental resources, such as their professors and/or extracurricular supervisors. 

One of my favorite parts of the application process is the personal statement. This essay can definitely seem daunting at first, but I like to think that it is an opportunity to add context to your GPA and test scores. This is the part of your application where your student can frame their journey and truly let their personalities shine. I redid my personal statement three times before I felt that it fully captured my undergraduate experience and passion for Physical Therapy. When I felt stuck, my advisor would help me brainstorm and/or reorganize my thoughts. Whether it be an advisor or parent, an outside perspective can definitely help a student if they feel stuck writing this essay (which is totally normal)! A personal statement is not something that can be written in one day which is another reason why it is important to start this process early!

Finally, reach out and make a connection with someone on the faculty of the graduate program. Looking back, this is probably the most important step of the application process. Before submitting my application, I spent a lot of time researching every Physical Therapy school I applied to and the program’s faculty. I found several faculty members that were conducting research/ teaching classes that I took particular interest in. I emailed several of these faculty members, so I could put my name out there before they viewed my application. This was probably the most important thing I did because I saw several of these faculty members again during interviews, and they remembered who I was. Whether it be other students, graduate school alumni or faculty, it can be extremely beneficial to receive first-hand graduate school advice. Encourage your student to attend any events that the graduate school hosts to put their name and face out there early!

Hopefully, with these tips, your student will enjoy the application process. Even though this process was definitely stressful, it was even more rewarding. My biggest piece of advice when writing personal statements and/or interviews is to just be yourself and let your personality shine, and the right program will love you. 

I hope this advice helps your student during this exciting time!!

– Jenny