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Tips for Applying to Graduate School

Is your undergraduate degree coming to an end, and you wonder what you would do next? Maybe you have thought about applying to the graduate program to further advance your knowledge. Or perhaps you already know what kind of studies you need to complete to earn the right qualifications for your dream job. As a student who recently applied for a Master’s degree, I could share with fellow students some tips that will help reduce stress around this process.

The first tip I would give everyone who wants to apply to any postgraduate program is to start early! It sounds lame and repetitive, but it is super helpful for multiple reasons! First of all, it will give you an opportunity to thoroughly explore what options are available! Second, it will provide you with enough time to prepare all documents on time and write a great letter of intent! Third, starting in advance will put less pressure on you because we all know that life gets busy and some things start slipping away bit you for sure don’t want to miss your opportunity! And finally, starting looking at prerequisites in advance will allow you to have time to take the courses you need for a specific program!

The second tip is to get your research done on the programs available. Multiple universities likely offer a program you will be interested in! Also, do not limit yourself by looking just in Canada. Even if you do not speak a language other than English, you can find programs offered in Australia, U.S., Britain, and even some European countries that offer programs in English! Moreover, after the start of the global pandemic, more and more universities began to offer online programs, so you don’t even need to leave your home!

The third tip is to make sure you check out the prerequisites for each program. You will find that each university and each program will list different requirements for those who want to get in. In some cases, these requirements vary only slightly; in others, you will find significant differences. Requirements for graduate programs are rarely limited just to your academics. Thus besides having good grades, you will likely need to complete specific courses, have particular work or volunteer experience, complete some tests such as GRE or language proficiency tests. When you check the requirement, you should also check what documents you need. Checking out the requirements before applying is critical because there is nothing more upsetting than to learn that you didn’t get into the program of your dreams simply because you didn’t take one right course.

The fourth tip is to find people who can give you positive references. Almost all programs ask to provide references, people who can tell about your work, volunteer, or academic experiences. Before selecting your contacts, you need to pay attention to program-specific reference requirements, as some programs are more interested in seeing your academic reference. In contrast, others want to see professional ones. When you ask someone to be your referee, make sure that you ask them if they can provide positive references. Because I bet you don’t want anyone to give negative comments about you. Thus, building strong and positive relationships with your teachers, bosses, and coworkers is critical in the long run.  

Last but not least advice is to make sure you take time preparing your application. You will likely need to write a letter of intent stating why you chose the specific program, how you fit this program, what makes you a good candidate, etc. This letter is one of the most critical parts of your application as it describes who you are as a person, student, and professional. It creates a picture of you and what you want to achieve, so you do not want to mess up this letter! Ask your friends, family, or coworkers to proofread your letter. You can also ask them about any particular qualities or experiences that can be seen as your strengths, as we often forget what makes us unique. You will also need to provide your Curriculum Vitae (CV), which is basically your resume that describes your academic and related professional experiences. Some programs may ask you to provide an example of your academic paper or research proposal, so make sure you know what topics you are interested in studying the most! 

Overall your application will probably take some time and work but will likely pay off with a great opportunity that can change your life! From my experience, while it can be stressful and you won’t know right away whether you got in or not, submitting your application after putting in some hard work feels highly rewarding! Moreover, the whole process helped me not only to understand what I would like to do after I graduate with the bachelor’s but also recognize how much I have achieved over the last couple of years! I hope you will find these tips helpful, and good luck with your application!

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