How to get into top graduate schools?

If your dream is to get into some of the top graduate schools, it is important that you start thinking about it very early. Some of you may even think about it during your undergraduate years. An early start helps you think clearly about your objectives and orient your efforts towards achieving those objectives. Getting into grad school is a combination of different factors that make up your application.

How to get into top graduate schools? Here are a few pointers:

1. Do your research – While you are pursuing your undergraduate major, start doing research about your target graduate programs. Go beyond the website. Visit the school personally and speak to current students and alumni if possible. This will help you learn more about the requirements at these programs. Depending on the requirements, you may take up additional courses or extra-curricular activities that further strengthen your application. Spend a good amount of time on research. Finalize on a minimum of 6-8 graduate schools.

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2. Get strong recommenders on board – If you plan to pursue grad school immediately after your college, identify professors who can become recommenders and develop relationships with them. For a working professional, your current boss or former mentor maybe your best bet. If you are studying, make sure that you have a good relationship with atleast 2-3 professors. Taking multiple courses with one professors will limit your recommender list.

3. Shoot for good GPA numbers – Leading graduate programs always pay extra attention to your GPA. Keep your GPA as high as possible, especially in your major courses. Leading programs may demand a GPA of 3.5+. Take additional courses if your grades are low. This helps beef up your application.

4. Earn a high GRE score – You need to start preparing early for GRE if you want to secure a high score. If you start early and adopt the best preparation strategies, you can easily work towards a high GRE score. Top graduate schools require GRE scores in excess of 700.

5. Practice writing essays – Most schools require you to submit essays. It is an essential part of the admissions process. Study common admission essay samples and practice writing them. Developing your own style will keep you in good stead during the actual admissions process.

6. Think about personal statementsPersonal statements give the schools more qualitative information about your candidature. Start thinking about your own unique story. A personal statement talks about your motivations to attend graduate school.

7. Know yourself well – Part of telling a great story is understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Speak to people in your network and try to get their perspective regarding your story. Think about your differentiating points vis-à-vis other applicants to the program. Understand your own motivations for taking up a graduate program.

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