5 Tips to Preparing for Graduate School Applications

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Alicia Rhodes, Assistant Director, Duke University Career Center

Are you thinking about attending graduate school after Duke? It’s never too early to start looking or thinking about what you would like to study. If you are thinking about going to graduate school, whether it’s right after Duke or you decide to take a gap year, here are a few tips to help you along the way!

  1. Decide on what you would like to study! three graduate students sitting on steps

If you know what you would like to study when you attend graduate school, then you are ahead of the curve! However, if you’re not quite sure what you would like to study, I would suggest that you take some time to reflect on your interests, skills, who you would like to become, and how your answers align with a potential graduate school program. Graduate school can be very expensive so take some time to think it through before you dive in!

  1. Research schools and potential programs of interest!

If you know what you would like to study, researching schools and potential programs of interest can help you narrow down your search of schools. You may also want to take other factors into consideration such as tuition, curriculum, and geographical location. Your research can consist of visiting the school’s website, speaking with current students or alums, and scheduling an informational interview with a staff member of the program.

  1. Pay attention to the application!

While you are researching potential schools and programs, make sure that you pay close attention to the application into the program. This will provide you with the application requirements and deadlines. Paying close attention to this information will inform you on what is needed to be accepted into the program and how you will need to prepare yourself to become ready to apply.

  1. You will need letters of recommendations!

Throughout your time as an undergraduate, do not overlook the importance of building relationships. Connecting with faculty and staff members and maintaining contact with previous supervisors can be extremely helpful, as most graduate school programs typically ask for two to four letters or recommendations. Having these established relationships will make it easier for you to decide who to reach out to and provide an opportunity for the individual you have asked to write a personalized letter of recommendation.

  1. Notice the deadlines!

Deadlines are extremely important. While you are looking at the application requirements pay close attention to the application deadlines. Doing so will help you plan out when to take required tests (if applicable), request for transcripts, ask for letters of recommendation to be written, and complete additional application materials.

If you are interested in attending graduate school and not sure how to prepare for your next steps, you can always schedule an appointment in CareerConnections with a career adviser or attend our Drop-in Career Advising and we will can provide you with guidance to move forward!