Graduate School: The Application Process in a Nutshell
There are good news and bad news for those applying to graduate school. The good news is that although a greater number of students are seeking master’s degrees—the NY Times recently reported that the number of students earning degrees in higher education has nearly doubled since 1980—it is not at the same frenzied level as the number of students seeking a bachelor’s degree. The bad news is that getting into graduate school continues to be increasingly competitive and in some ways, applicants must work even harder than they did as high school students to produce outstanding applications.
“The process of applying to graduate school is typically more focused because the individual has chosen to delve more deeply into one subject area. Therefore, while that narrows the playing field, one is being assessed alongside many others (in some cases hundreds) with targeted interests and qualifications. Also, whereas undergraduate programs normally accept a larger number of applicants spread out over many majors, some graduate programs, especially Ph.Ds, admit only a handful of people,” noted Joseph Simmons, a Career Coach at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Over the past few years, more students have been rising to the challenge of meeting—and sometimes surpassing schools’ admission criteria for their graduate programs, making it exceedingly difficult to determine which applicants deserve an acceptance letter. “Due to various reasons, more schools are getting terrific applications from a broader base of students, which adds to the intensity of choosing among so many highly qualified applicants,” commented Andrew Cornblatt, Dean of Admissions at Georgetown Law.
In view of the growing intensity for a spot in graduate programs, corporations have started to take notice and respond with services on how to get an edge in the application process. “There has been a definite shift towards more competitive applicants. Ten years ago, a high GRE score and decent grades were all it took. Now, students must be savvier about showing commitment, passion and clarity in their applications,” commented Chioma Isiadinso, M.Ed., CEO and founder of Expartus, an admissions consulting firm that teaches its clients how to “brand” themselves so as to stand out among other applicants. According to Ms. Isiadinso, the majority (70%) of Expartus’ clients are enrolled in the branding seminars for graduate schools, specifically MBA programs, and she expects the demand for these and other seminars to grow as schools continue to hold high expectations for their students. “Graduate schools have definitely raised the bar,” said Ms. Isiadinso. “Therefore students must be more aggressive about how they pursue their goals as well.”
So what are graduate schools looking for? Matthew Ulmer, Corporate Communications Manager at GradSchools.com offers the following advice: “Find out what you’re passionate about and tell a story about it. Schools are more interested in what you’ve learned and what you’ve given back than in how many activities you can tack on.”
Applicants will do well to remember the old adage, “quality, not quantity.”#
Judith Aquino, a staff reporter, has just applied to several graduate schools of journalism.