Somewhere between the advent of online applications and the recent rush of jobless college graduates seeking safe havens in a post-grad program, the process of getting into grad school has changed — although in other ways, it hasn’t. Linda Abraham, consultant and blogger at Accepted.com, breaks down the evolving art to landing a spot in the grad school classroom.
As online applications phase out paper-and-pen forms, what changes are you seeing in how students should approach their applications?
It’s easier to apply to more schools because of the online format, so we’re seeing lower acceptance rates. But there are still four key qualities to a great grad school application. The first is your academic stats, like GPA and test scores. Two, you need to have a clear goal of why you’re applying to the program you’re looking into. Third, show personal traits that are consistent with both your stated goals and the school’s mission. Graduate schools worship at the altar of leadership, so they all want people who can persuade, communicate and motivate. Finally, there’s your work experience.
Considering how rough it’s been to find a spectacular job, have grad schools watered down their work experience requirements?
It’s still a requirement, but the quantity of work experience is less important. It depends on the school, but in general terms, there has been a swing of pendulum toward not being so demanding. For business school, work experience is somewhat less important than before the recession. They’d been looking for experience in the five-to-six-year range, now it’s back in the three-or-four-year range.
Which schools are becoming more competitive?
Applications have been up at many law schools. They’re up at medical schools. They originally went up at business schools, then this past year they went down slightly. So, it’s something of a mixed picture.
Is there any one quality that catches an evaluator’s attention?
Authenticity. Don’t try to game the process. Think about what you’re proud of, and what you want the committee to know. Then, show a willingness to be self-reflective and self-revealing. Let them know why this school is appropriate, why you’re prepared for it.