Graduate School Application Requirements
What does a graduate or professional school application include?
After you’ve researched the programs in which you’re interested, make a list of the requirements and deadlines for each one. (See Timelines.) Each application will include several items and an application fee ranging from $20-$90. Many institutions have an “application fee waiver program” for anyone needing financial assistance.
The application itself may contain all or most of the following parts. Each is important.
- Application form
- Personal statement
- Letters of recommendation
- Aptitude tests/standardized test scores
- Interviews, portfolios, auditions
- Financial aid applications
The personal statement can be one of the most important components of your application package. The statement should be tailored closely to the program for which you are applying, and should give a clear and concise description of your motivation for completing this degree, and your plans for going on to work in the field. Remember that this is not your autobiography, and keep your description focused and professional. It is important that you convince the department to which you are applying that you have clear career goals and will be able to successfully complete the program. Be sure to have a career counselor and your advisor critique your personal statement and allow yourself plenty of time to revise. The Career Development Library has a number of books and resources that offer help with writing graduate admissions essays.
Your recommendations should provide the readers with a balanced perception of your academic skills and personal abilities. You should make an appointment and spend time individually with those writing letters of recommendation for you, in order to provide them with an understanding of your goals and motivations for graduate work. Provide each recommender with a copy of your personal statement and a current resume so that they may refer to them in their letter. Be sure to give the writers at least three to four weeks lead-time prior to the deadline. After the letters have been written, show your appreciation by sending the writers a thank-you note.
Some graduate schools (especially medical and business) will require an admissions interview. You should prepare for a graduate school interview just as you would for an employment interview. Learn about questions that you are likely to be asked, and practice answering them. Dress as you would for an employment interview. You may schedule a practice interview with a career counselor by calling 651.690.8890.
Fields that are creative in nature (M.F.A., for example) may require you to submit a portfolio as part of your application. Likewise, programs in music, theater, and dance will often require an audition. Both the portfolio and audition are means to show your skill and ability to do further work, and should reflect the scope of your training and abilities. Samples of portfolios are available in the Career Development Resource Library. Contact the Career Development office for current recommendations on e-Portfolio software.
Review the requirements of your target schools to determine which tests you need to take and when the scores are due. There are many methods for preparing for these tests. You can buy (or check out from the library) test preparation guides, take sample online tests (for example see www.gre.org), or enroll in test prep course. Kaplan and Princeton Review are two major test prep companies, but they can be pricey. Come to the Career Development Resource Library to use current guides for GRE, LSAT, MCAT, PCAT, GMAT. Contact the O’Neill Center for more information about test prep. Note: The University of Minnesota Continuing Education offers Grad School Test Prep classes for the GRE and the LSAT. Prices range from $255-$625.
The most common entrance exam is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test, which measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. Do not plan on taking the GRE twice, using the first as a “practice test”. Institutions will average both scores together rather than counting only the highest score. The GRE General is offered in computerized testing format only. Contact a testing center near you to schedule a test date and time.
- GRE Information & Registration Bulletin and Forms
- Registration, Test Centers and Dates
- Accomodations for test takers with disabilities or health-related needs
In addition to the general test, certain graduate programs may require a GRE Subject Test, which measures achievement in a particular field of study. The GRE Subject test is offered in the following fields: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology. Check with the programs to which you are applying to see whether they require a subject test.
LSAT - Law School
If you are applying for law school, you will need to take the LSAT and register with LSDAS (Law School Data Assembly Service). See Law School Admissions Council for complete information on LSDAS and for LSAT test center information.
MCAT - Medical School
The AAMC, Association of American Medical Colleges, provides extensive information for medical school admissions and testing.
PCAT - Pharmacy School
Pharmacy College admissions information is available at American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
GMAT - Business and Management School
The Graduate Management Admission Council administers the GMAT exam. The GMAT is often required for MBA, Masters of Accountancy, Finance or similar programs.