3 Tips for Applying to Grad School

Making the decision to go to grad school is a big and exciting step! Here are some of my tips for surviving the process:

Plan ahead.

There is nothing more stressful than applying for master’s applications at the peak of mid-terms or final exams. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from applying to master’s applications, it’s to plan ahead. Whether it be researching, making a checklist, and submitting the application in general, there is no better way to feel less overwhelmed than to give yourself enough time. 

Once I realized I wanted to go to graduate school, I immediately pin-pointed which country I wanted to go to, whether or not I wanted to defer a year and looked into what programs are available. Once I figured that out, I created a checklist needed for every application at every school. I also updated my calendar and set alarms to make sure I never missed deadlines.

If you’re looking into getting scholarships, some schools automatically consider you for some of their scholarships while others require you to apply separately. One of my mistakes was realizing that there was, in fact, a scholarship option, however, it was a separate application and I missed the deadline.

Since reference letters require someone else’s time, I made sure I got to that first. I first asked if professors and supervisors felt comfortable writing me a reference if so, I gave them at least two months from the deadline. Finally, give yourself enough time to gather transcripts, write your letters of intent, filling out the application itself, and completing any other tests needed to apply.

Use your connections.

One of the most helpful parts during the application process was being able to talk to someone who’s also been through it. I talked to my family, friends, professors, and supervisors. Without a lot of these conversations, I don’t think a lot of the questions I had would’ve been answered as authentically. Talking to my professors helped me expand my horizons in terms of the schools I was applying to, I even learned about a program at a school I wouldn’t have thought to look into. It’s now my top choice! By talking to supervisors, I learned about what skills, experience and the kind of degree I needed to get to where they are.

Not one letter fits all.

When I first started my application process, I thought writing one letter of intent would suffice to apply to multiple schools, however, each school is different. I did end up using one as a base for my applications, I made sure I tweaked them to fit the requirements and made sure I wrote about the specific school and its specific program. I wrote multiple drafts, eight to be exact. Every time I wrote a new one it just kept getting better. One of the great things about talking to your peers, family, professors, and supervisors is that they can be another set of eyes. I sent one of my professors three different versions of my letter of intent. It wasn’t until she didn’t have any other revisions that I felt fully confident in my foundation letter of intent.

Emma Lawrence, Community Relations Manager, is a fourth-year Dalhousie University student studying Sustainability and Environmental Science. She will be completing her masters in Sustainability Management next year and is hoping to pursue a career in Corporate Social Responsibility. You can catch her surrounded by dogs during the weekdays and out for brunch on the weekends.

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