Getting into Graduate School

Applying to graduate school isn’t like applying to college. There are fewer applicants with which to compete, but there are fewer programs as well, and so admission to most programs remains highly competitive. Your application needs to be compelling and unique to you, but with goals for your career clearly articulated. Just how you accomplish this will vary based on the field to which you are applying. It may be communicated through tightly written essays and short answer responses, top notch test scores, demonstration of research or teaching credentials, and in the careful selection of schools and professors that closely match your interest area. In short, applicants to graduate school are most often admitted when admissions committees have a clear sense that a graduate degree is an essential part of the applicant’s career, and that their goals sync with what the program can provide. They need to be able to picture the applicant as a prospective colleague who will thrive in their field.


  1. HOWTO: Get Into Grad School for Science, Engineering, Math and Computer Science
    In this extensive guide, Professor Matt Might, Presidential Scholar and Professor at the University of Utah, lays out in clear terms just what graduate schools in the disciplines of Science, Engineering, Math and Computer Science are looking for. (Hint: research, research and more research). He offers tips for gathering relevant recommendations and writing the right kind of personal essays, as well as ten general tips that provide insight into just what admissions committees are looking for. He helpfully links to other resources for further research, examples, a list of what not to do, and even next steps in the event of rejection.
  2. MLA: Advice to Graduate Students: From Application to Career
    The Modern Languages Association (MLA) is the leading association for professionals devoted to the languages and literature, and therefore is an excellent resource for students seeking graduate programs in the Humanities. This page takes applicants through the process of finding an ideal degree program, setting personal expectations both in terms of the program itself and in terms of employment and financial assistance, and preparing for careers in the field.
  3. Advice for Those Interested in English Graduate School
    The MLA resource is best paired with this extensive guide to getting into English PhD programs (tips are applicable across the Humanities) from Linda Troost, Professor and Chair of the Department of English at Washington and Jefferson College. The guide provides an excellent introduction to MA programs and doctoral degrees, as well as insider tips for mastering the application and GREs, getting in, and flourishing. Troost also provides a number of resources for deeper exploration.
  4. How to Get Into Business School
    With more students applying to MBA programs than ever before, Matt Symonds, a former Director of Admissions at the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, provides a look at the numbers as well as numerous tips for beating out the competition. Notably, Symonds drives home the importance of the personal essay as a means of standing out.
  5. APA: Applying to Graduate School
    The American Psychological Association (APA) is to the field of psychology what the MLA is to the Humanities. The "Applying to Graduate School" site is a one-stop shop for every resource potential graduate students need, whether you have your heart set on a PsyD, LMHC, PhD or any one of the many higher degrees within this field. You'll find an excellent quiz that will help you examine your motivations, frequently asked questions, an application timeline, dos and don'ts, and so much more.
  6. The AAMC Website
    There are numerous helpful application tips for medical school applicants available on the Association of American Medical Colleges website. These extensive tips for the application itself are great to use as a roadmap, helping to ensure you don't miss a requirement. The "Ask an Expert" section runs a little deeper, sourcing answers to real applicant questions from medical professionals who have sat on many admissions committees. Two particularly useful sub-resources are Creating a Winning Application and Preparing for the Interview.
  7. Getting Into Law School
    The comprehensive tips included in this 28-page guide put out by the University of Southern California (USC) are cogent and detailed, covering everything from the LSATs to personal statements, resumes and letters of recommendation. Guidance is offered for transfer students, and deeper explanations are provided on the importance of first year grades, proper formatting for the application, interpreting popular rankings, acing the interview, and determining whether or not to wait before applying.
  8. Grad School Tips
    For more general grad school admissions tips, we highly recommend this resource from Matt Welsh, former Professor of Computer Science at Harvard and current software engineer at Google. This presentation is an honest look at the utility of higher degrees, as well as an overview of the process and a look at what students should expect to encounter. But perhaps most useful is the section entitled, "Professor's Point of View," as it provides an inside look into what admissions committees are actually looking for.
  9. Graduate School: Getting It All Paid For
    Accounting for your graduate school finances starts before you've even been admitted. Not only should you determine whether or not you (and your family) can live on a reduced budget, but you also must apply for grants, fellowships and outside financial aid along with your overall applications. This resource out of Saint Louis University provides insight into the types of funding possible (hint: there are more kinds than you think) and lists a vast array of sites and databases where you can begin your search. It's a crucial stop on your application journey because, as the PDF indicates, there are plenty of opportunities for gaining funding; you just have to find them.