Preparing Your Application
Admission requirements can vary by department within a school. Be sure you know what you need to put together for each individual application packet.
Schools will typically have an online application form to identify and track applications through the submission process. This usually consists of demographic information and sometimes a brief summary of qualifications.
Most schools will also have an application fee, and the processing of your application will not begin until the fee has been paid. Typical application fees range from $50 to $100 and vary by school.
You may be asked to suggest a supervisor/advisor for your program of study. Research the faculty at the program where you are applying to find out their research and teaching interests, and to see which faculty members may be the right fit for you and your goals.
Official academic transcripts and any test scores are required by most programs for admission. Official transcripts need to be requested from the Registrar’s Office.
Request test scores from the testing company or indicate on the test the schools to which you want scores sent. Some graduate/professional schools will also give the opportunity to defend weak material (e.g., low GPA) in a brief statement.
There are many different names for very similar documents that may vary by school at this stage in the application process. Although these documents are all very similar in nature, there are subtle key differences you will want to highlight with each one.
Most letters or statements are 1-2 pages in length, but always check the requirements of the schools to which you are applying. If they do not give a lot of information and you want to know how to make the best application for them, do not hesitate to contact the program with specific questions.
Personal Statement/Application Essay
- Usually there are additional instructions included to indicate what the school/program prefers. Because a personal statement can be very broad in definition, always follow instructions!
- If no other instructions are given to you, and you are asked for a personal statement, here are some guidelines to follow:
- Describe your interests in the field and how you came to have those interests.
- Tell them your goals (both short- and long-term) in the field.
- Explain to them how this specific program can help you achieve those goals.
- Show them your passion, dedication and ambition through past examples and forward-thinking.
Other potential topics include personal characteristics that are applicable to being successful in graduate/professional school, skills and abilities you have gained through experiences that make you stand out as a candidate for admission, explanations of any inconsistencies in your history or materials (e.g., low GPA, gap in school) discussed in a positive way, and how you will contribute to the program where you are applying.
Statement of Intent/Statement of Purpose/Letter of Intent
- These are very similar to the personal statement in content, with just a slightly different focus.
- Although most of the content is the same (see above), you will be focusing on what you want to study in graduate/professional school in greater detail. This can be accomplished through discussing specific areas of interest within a field, research questions and ideas you have for those topics and indicating faculty members who have similar research interests.
- Your statement will answer the question, “what is my intent (or purpose) for attending this program?”
Letter of Qualification
- This is going to be very similar to a personal statement in content, but shift the focus more towards your qualifications as a candidate for admission to the program.
- You will focus on your outstanding skills, abilities, and experiences that show you are the best-qualified individual for the program, while still including the pertinent content from above.
- Here you focus more on the experiences that led you to apply for this particular program and field of study.
- It will contain similar content to the above documents, but shift the focus to your history relevant to further study in your field and how it makes you a qualified candidate for the program.
The purpose of a teaching statement is to tell the school to which you are applying about your past teaching experience, your teaching philosophy and ideas about teaching you will bring to the department. Teaching statements are more commonly found in graduate school applications where you will also be applying for teaching assistantships. Common topics to address in a teaching statement are:
- Past experiences teaching, and how they shaped you as an instructor
- How you facilitate learning in the classroom, including past and future ideas
- How you interact with students and deal with challenges in the classroom.
- What you hope your students will achieve from your class and how you will go about making that happen.
It is important to discuss these topics in the context of your previous experience and the role you hope to be in the future.
For more tips on writing a teaching statement please see this article by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Your research statement will highlight your research interests, how those interests came to exist, what research you have done in the past and what research you would like to do in the future. Common questions to answer and tips for creating a good research statement are:
- What past experiences started your interest in this research?
- What research questions have you investigated in the past?
- Why were these research questions important within your field?
- What were the challenges and obstacles you faced when answering these questions?
- How has your research been applied in your field?
- Where do you want to go with that research now?
- What are your future research plans and/or questions that you want to answer?
- Be sure to tailor your research statement to each different school to which you are applying. Each school will have different facilities available and a variety of faculty interests. This informs you about which research topics will match well for that particular program.
- It is important to show passion and sincere interest for the research you have done, and the research you are interested in completing in the future. The research statement should include this excitement and still be a professional research statement.
- Ask a current (or past) professor if you may review one of their research statements and ask them to look over your research statement. It is always good to get the opinion of someone in your field.
Your letters of recommendation are a very important piece of your application material. These letters are written by professors, advisors and supervisors who have had close contact with you and can attest to your knowledge, skills and abilities in your field.
- Throughout your undergraduate, graduate and even professional career, it is highly important to maintain positive connections with the people with whom you work and interact. These are the individuals you will ask to write your letters of recommendation, so it is important that they know you and know what you could contribute to a graduate or professional program.
- The individuals you will ask to write your recommendation letters are going to be busy people. It is crucial to give them plenty of advance notice (minimum 1-2 months) when asking them to write a letter for you.
- Provide your letter writers with a copy of your resume or CV and, ideally, meet with them to discuss graduate/professional school, your interests in applying and the schools where you will be applying.
- Be sure to provide your letter writers with any additional materials or requirements that each school may have for their letters of recommendation.
Most graduate and professional schools will ask for a writing sample. This is usually a piece of work you have done in your past and is, hopefully, related to your field.
- Choose the best piece of writing you have from your past experiences. Hopefully this sample is recent, but it does not have to be, as long as it is relevant to your field.
- Even if it has been reviewed before, have a professor, advisor, peer and/or other reviewer perform a thorough review and critique of the sample you choose. It is also a good idea to have someone, who has not previously read the sample, review it for a fresh perspective.
- If you do not have any written work that you are proud of and want to use as your writing sample, you can write a new piece (time permitting) that is relevant to your field, have it reviewed, and submit it as your writing sample.
- A great resource to take advantage of on campus to assist in reviewing your writing sample is the U of I Writing Center.
- Some schools will ask for a writing sample with a professor’s marks on it, so be aware of exactly what is required by each school.
Entrance Test Preparation
Both standardized and specialized entrance testing are common requirements for graduate and professional school acceptance.
College of Graduate Studies
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