Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Applying to Graduate School

My personal application process is officially over. Here's my shot at a tip sheet (I'll try and avoid the more obvious ones).

Tricky thing about the GRE when the undergrad years are a speck in the rear view mirror: the verbal section gets a lot easier and the math gets rough. For those of you way out of school, start hitting the math early and often - it will likely be your speed that trips you up and not wrong answers.

Try not to make your essay a rehash narrative of your resume. See if you can puzzle out what career choices led you from job to job (or kept you in the same one). Look for a common thread and build an essay around that theme. I hated my essay until I found a theme.

If you're turning in a video essay, think of it like an elevator pitch. The elevator pitch always works in a structure of three - three quick concise ideas. The human brain loves threes. You don't want to simply hold your iPhone in front of your face - yes I saw a couple of these form other applicants.

Try and make at least one of your recommendations from a professor, preferably one with a CV that emits its own light. Enough planning ahead can make this work through professional relationships. Or...head back to your alma mater and buy your favorite undergrad professor lunch. Make sure everyone writing you recommendations gets a copy of your resume and academic history - even your application essay if your that well prepared. The easier you make it for them, the better the result.

Careful who you give contact information to as you start scoping out schools. Some admissions personnel will hound you relentlessly.

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