Easy Step-By-Step Guide on How to Apply to Grad School

Many people don’t know how to apply to grad school. Hence, this stumbling block has made it difficult for many of them to pursue their academic goals besides financial constraints.

If you’ve ever found yourself in this trying situation, this article will explain using a step-by-step guide on how you can apply for grad school easily. But before we get into that, let’s identify what a grad school truly represents.

What is a Grad School?

A graduate school is a type of higher education institution that grants postgraduate degrees, most frequently master’s and doctoral (PhD) programs. Before applying to graduate school, you will almost always need to have completed an undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree, sometimes known as a ‘first degree.

Grad schools can be located inside academic departments of universities or as independent colleges dedicated only to postgraduate study.

Most students will pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in the same or a related topic to which they majored as an undergraduate, to gain more in-depth knowledge in a specialized area. However, there are opportunities to pursue a whole other field of study if you change your mind, wish to learn new skills, or want to change careers.

Further Reading: Easiest Grad Schools to Get into in 2021

Easy Step-By-Step Guide on How to Apply to Grad School

Now that you have learnt about grad school and the vital role it plays in the turnout of your education, now is a great time to learn an easy step-by-step guide on how you can easily apply for grad school.

Step 1: Create a list of graduate schools

The first step in applying to graduate school may seem apparent, but we’ll go ahead and say it anyway: make a list of schools, just like you did when applying to college or university when you decided you wanted to get a bachelor’s degree. Your graduate school list should have at least nine programs, divided into ideal schools, target schools, and safety schools.

Ideal schools

Three of the graduate programs on your list should be “dream schools,” which have stringent entrance standards and rigorous academic programs to which only the top candidates are accepted.

Graduate schools

The following three graduate institutions on your list must be ones where you are almost guaranteed to be admitted. Safety schools are ones where you have a higher GPA than is required and have higher results on standardized tests and other assessments.

Consider it a safe bet if you obtained your bachelor’s degree from a college or university with a more difficult admissions procedure than one of the graduate institutions on your list.

Targetable Schools

The following three graduate institutions on your list should be ones where you have a strong likelihood of acceptance. It might be difficult to understand what distinguishes a goal school from a dream or a safe school. To put it another way, target schools are those in which:

  • You meet or surpass the master’s program’s test score criteria (including GRE, GMAT).
  • Your academic record equals or surpasses the required GPA (AKA your unofficial transcripts from college or university are officially good).
  • You have letters of reference that demonstrate to the admissions office that if admitted, you would be among the best students pursuing this degree. At least one of you is correct.
  • At least one of your letters of recommendation should be written by a professor at the college or university where you earned your bachelor’s degree. This person should know you (as a student).
  • Your application essay exhibits the meticulous writing skills you developed while earning your bachelor’s degree.

Note: Of all these categories, if you’re going to add schools, add to your target schools. There’s no need to spend more time on the safeties or the dreams. Get a list of recommended grad programs for your academic background, budget, and interests. This is the most vital step when you want to apply to grad school.

Step 2: Create a list of all academic requirements

Now that you’ve narrowed down your choice of graduate schools, explain the admissions procedure for each one. Many graduate school entrance criteria will overlap. Almost all graduate institutions, for example, demand the same documents: transcripts, letters of recommendation, and GRE GMAT scores.

Now, generate a report or a checklist with the criteria for each institution, which will help you to be more efficient as you work your way through your list. Each school will demand a personal statement, and most will give a list of suggestions to help you write it.

There is generally a lot of overlap between the personal statement prompts provided by each master’s program.

Know where these overlaps occur so you may devote your effort to creating one or two excellent personal statement essays rather than 10 poor ones.

Step 3: Excel in your GRE exams

Make a note of the average GRE or GMAT scores necessary for admission to each graduate school on your list of prerequisites. Calculate the averages for the 75th and 50th percentiles.

There are several GMAT and GRE prep courses available in which you might practise taking the GMAT and/or GRE subject test. Both Kaplan and Princeton Review provide free online GRE practice exams. It is critical to take an online exam because the actual GMAT or GRE topic test is administered on a computer.

You’re fine to go if you’re in the 75th percentile for ‘fair chance’ schools. However, what happens if you aren’t in the 75th percentile? Continue your studies! You may study on your own, enrol in a GRE prep course, or hire a tutor. If you’re a long way from the score required for admission, the only way to get there is to practice.

Step 4: Craft Your Personal Statement

Your personal statement is crucial because it will set you apart from all other students competing for admission to the same master’s program as you. Keep the following tips in mind when you write your personal statement:

  • Catch the readers’ attention. Remember that the office of admissions reads tons of essays. If yours is boring or like all the others, you won’t stand out.
  • Position yourself in a way that shows how you’ll bring value to the school. This, of course, means that you will have to tweak each one specifically to each school. In other words, you need to flatter the office of admissions a little bit. This works especially well if there’s a professor with whom you want to work.
  • Share a copy of your personal statement with those whom you’ve asked to recommend you. This way, they will know what you have already said and won’t repeat the same things. Make sure to ask others to read your statements before you send them out. You’ll inevitably have typos or errors. By sharing your writing with others, they can help you catch mistakes before they’re submitted.

Step 5: Get Recommendation Letters

The bulk of graduate school admissions requirements request three letters of reference, which are often submitted online. There are two challenging components of writing recommendation letters.

The first is that you must ensure that each recommender says something unique. As a result, you can either ask them what they intend to say or tell them what others are saying. This is not going to be an easy task. Professors, on the other hand, send letters of recommendation all the time. It makes their life simpler if you tell them exactly what you need them to say.

Another tough part of this is convincing recommenders to write and submit letters. They are writing these as a courtesy. As a result, the importance of your letter of recommendation is minimal. You will very certainly have to bug them to get the letters in on time. Don’t be scared to try it. As a result, make sure you give your recommenders plenty of notice.

Don’t ask them a few days in advance; give them several weeks (or even months) and a deadline. Make certain to extend your application deadlines; get recommendations at least a few weeks before you need them.

Step 6: Get transcripts before deadlines

You must make transcript requests to the college or university where you got your bachelor’s degree. Official transcripts may only be obtained in this manner. You may do so online through the schools’ websites, or you may need to contact the registrar’s office. Expect to pay between $5 and $10 for each transcript.

Make arrangements for your institutions to submit official transcripts straight to the master’s program to which you’re applying, as some graduate schools will not accept transcripts that have gone through your hands first. It might take months to get all of your transcripts. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do now.

Step 7: Build examples of past work

If you are required to provide examples of your work, have one of your college or university teachers review it. It has to sparkle.

It’s also conceivable that they’ll bring up this work during your graduate school admissions interview. Know it thoroughly and be prepared to discuss it in depth (including any secondary sources you cite!).

Step 8: Walk though your graduate application requirements

Before submitting your application and accompanying papers, go over each set of admissions standards for each master’s program on your list.

If at all feasible, send in your graduate school applications at least one month before the deadline. The majority of individuals prefer to wait. If you submit your application early, it will be read with greater attention.

Step 9: Execute your application and wait

Waiting to hear from the admissions office after submitting your application is one of the most difficult aspects of applying to graduate school. Most colleges will notify you when they will contact you. If you receive a response, you may be invited to visit or do a phone interview with the admissions office. You should be prepared to ask questions about the program during the interview or visit.

Your questions should demonstrate that you have investigated the program and considered how you might help. Make sure you practice with a buddy or lecturer beforehand.

Step 10: You’ve Moved In!

If you’ve been accepted to graduate school, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to have to pay for it. Scholarships, loans, and employer tuition reimbursement schemes are among the financial help opportunities. That said, the hard part is already over. 


If you always desired to apply to grad school but never knew how to facilitate the process, then it’s clear you must have finished your application process after you’ve gone through all the steps listed here.

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