Thinking of Applying to Grad School? Read This First.

Sneak Peek At What I’ve Been Working On

Every once in a while I like to share a behind the scenes look at what I do with my subscribers. This week’s newsletter is one of those times.For the past month I have been working with the site Teach.com on a 5-part series on how to apply for graduate school. Teach.com is part of the USC Rossier School of Education and has been providing teachers with a comprehensive educational web resource dedicated to discovering, discussing and encouraging great teaching around the world for a few years now, and I am really excited about the opportunity to work with them on this project.

The finished product is going live later this week, but here is a snippet of what the completed project will look like. If you happen to be thinking about grad school it should be helpful. If your grad school days are behind you, I’d love it if you’d forward it along to anyone you know who may find this useful.

Part One: Timeline for applying to Graduate School

Applying to graduate school can seem a daunting process, so below is a step-by-step, 4 season guide to get you from that first sitting at the GRE all the way to your first day of classes.

Summer: Prep Work
Just about every grad school requires applicants to take one of the major standardized tests for graduate education. These include the GRE, MCAT, GMAT, LSAT, or DAT, depending on which advanced degree you are pursuing. If you have not already sat for one of these exams you must do it over the summer before the official application process begins.
A second item to cross off the to-do list over the summer is to email 2-3 faculty members and ask if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you. If they agree send them a copy of your transcript as well as a basic student resume. The easier you make the task for them the better recommendation you will receive. Summer is a great time to do this as many professors will have some down time and may be more willing to write one for you…

 Part Two: Getting the Right References

One of the harder aspects of applying to graduate school is asking for help. All schools require references and often applicants have a hard time going about this part of the process. Whether it is because they don’t want to impose, or they can’t decide who would represent them best to the school of their choice, this task is often left for last on the list of things to do when applying.

However, cultivating references not only shouldn’t be last on the list it should be first. In fact, cultivating positive personal relationships is an ongoing and ever-present part of a successful career. If this isn’t already part of your regular practice, you should start today.

The process is pretty straightforward. Here are a few guidelines to help you get started.

1. Choose the right people.

If you are going to enter the field of education then the first place to look for recommendations would of course be former professors. Ideally these should be people from within your particular discipline, or from your undergraduate program’s education department. Look first to professors with whom you have taken more than just one class, as these individuals will have the most to draw from in creating your reference letter….

Part Three: Crafting your Grad School Resume

Applying to graduate school can be an intimidating process, especially crafting your application resume. The ever-present warnings are always in the back of your head. Recent studies have shown that your resume has less than ten seconds to make an impression (good or bad) on the reader. Yes, it is true that a resume needs to be designed for high impact skimming, but you don’t need to tie yourself up in knots over its creation. As long as you follow the steps below you’ll be sure to have a winning resume when you’re through.

A resume can be broken into thirds. The top third is made up of your heading, your branding statement and your core competencies.

The Heading:
The heading is made up of your name and contact information. Make sure your name is the largest sized font, preferably size 24. In terms of contact info, list your full address and only one phone number. Choose either your cell or a land-line, but do not include both. Additionally, be sure to have a professional sounding email. “YourName@SomeEmailService.com” works best…

Part Four: Writing Your Personal Statement

If you are applying to graduate school, then you’ll need to write a personal statement as part of the application. Personal statements can be tricky as you do not want to simply repeat what is stated elsewhere in your application, but you also don’t want to turn it into an autobiography.  Things like your GPA, accomplishments, awards, and courses taken do not fit. Your personal statement should be, well, personal. Why do you want to become a teacher? Why do you want to earn your degree at this school?

Brainstorming
Before you start outlining your statement ask yourself a few questions to get an idea of what you’ll need to include. Jot down each of the following questions and leave some space for answering them.

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why do I want to be a teacher?
  3. How should I address my academic record?
  4. How can my experiences enhance my application?
  5. Who is my audience?
Now take a few minutes and come up with some answers to these questions. Don’t spend too much time on this step; just write down your general thoughts. Thus armed with some concrete information you will be ready to dive in and start writing your personal statement….Part Five: Preparing For the Interview

The graduate school interview can be one of the more intimidating aspects of the entire process. But before we analyze exactly what to expect and how to prepare take a minute and congratulate yourself. You have made the admission board’s short list of candidates they are really considering. They have read your resume, gone over your transcripts, studied your personal statement and decided that you could add to their campus and program. Now all you have to do is convince them that they were right to ask you to interview.

The Purpose of the Graduate School Interview
The first goal of the interview is to make sure the person they meet in real life is the same person they met on your application. Some people look better on paper than they do in person, and for that reason interviews will often be an important part of the whole process.

The main thing the interviewers will be trying to determine is whether you have what it takes to succeed both in graduate school and later in the classroom as a teacher. Character traits such as maturity, communication skills, passion for teaching, and motivation will all be important…

Be sure to check out www.teach.com later this week for full series, and in the meantime I hope you start enjoying the summer vacation season. Time to relax, rejuvenate and refresh your skills.