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Overview of Graduate School Requirements

written by: Dr. Ranee Kaur Banerjee•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 12/14/2010

So you’re wondering about grad school requirements: what qualifications and documentation do you need in order to apply for a place in the Masters or PhD program of your choice? This article lists the various qualifications and requirements that will need to be met when you apply to grad school.

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    GRE, GMAT or Other Standardized Tests

    If you want to go to grad school, it is usually necessary for you to take the relevant standardized entrance exams and send your scores to the universities you’re interested in. For science and humanities programs, you will probably have to take both the general and the subject GRE. Foreign students may also need to prove their proficiency in English with the TOEFL. You will want to check what the requirements are for each school you are applying to.

    How important your scores are changes from school to school and department to department according to specific policies. Do find out how the schools you want to apply to treat GRE scores by looking at their website or making contact with the department head.

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    Application Form

    Most schools will have easy application forms that you will need to fill online. These generally come with clear instructions. It is your job to fill the form accurately so that there are no errors in it. Please read the form carefully before you fill it in and hit the submit button.

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    Undergraduate Grades and Transcripts

    You don’t have to be summa cum laude, but it would help if you keep your GPA to a respectable 3.5 or so if you want any department or school to take your application seriously right off the bat.

    That said, your GPA is just one of the many considerations during the grad school admissions process and it wouldn’t really be the end of the world if you don’t have a high GPA. You should, however, be able to explain why your GPA isn’t higher—perhaps you didn’t take school seriously enough in your freshman year but your grades have steadily improved since then. You should be able to show your significant interest in your chosen subject—your GPA isn’t all that good, but you got straight A’s in the subject you would like to work on for your Masters or PhD. Basically, you should be able to convince the admissions board that your interest is genuine and that you’re both earnest and sincere about completing the program.

    Grad school requirements are generally tough because the university invests a lot of both time and money in you and would therefore like to fill its limited grad student positions with people who they think will go all the way and become assets to research and academia.

    Collect your transcripts and arrange for them to be sent to the schools and programs of your choice. You cannot complete your application without proof of having completed the necessary foundational courses and credit hours.

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    Letters of Recommendation

    You will require at least two, often three, letters of recommendation from people who know you and your academic capabilities and who will endorse your decision to go to grad school. It is always a good idea to get your letters of recommendation from former teachers in a subject relevant to your future area of study and/or prominent social connections who can talk about your personality traits and characteristics that may be pertinent to graduate study in a particular area.

    Most schools will need these letters to be sent straight to them in sealed envelopes or will send exclusive links for online forms to the people you have indicated will recommend you. You should find the appropriate procedure for the program of your choice and arrange things accordingly. Be sure to ask early for the recommendation so those you ask have plenty of time to complete their part of your application process.

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    Did you know that awards or work experience can help you with your grad school requirements? Find out what additional information you can submit with your application in order to make it well-rounded.
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    Sports and/or Other Extra-curricular Activities

    If you have any certificates or awards that show your interest and participation in sports or any other extra-curricular activities, please include them in your application. Though not a strict requirement, these will give the grad school admissions committee an idea of the complete and rounded person you are and will definitely work to your advantage as they make their decision. Include any volunteer work, committees that you served on, and activities that you participated in.

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    Any other Relevant Experience

    Say you want to work on your PhD and do research in Veterinary Science. It would be wonderful if you could show that you’ve volunteered some time at the Animal Shelter over the years or that you’ve worked in a Vet clinic or can demonstrate some experience and exposure to the care for animals. What this does is demonstrate that your interest in your subject is not just academic and that your passion is real and sustained.

    Therefore, find some way of showing that you take more than just a scholastic and intellectual interest in the subject you want to study in graduate school.

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    Statement of Purpose

    This is, perhaps, the most important essay you will ever write, so you should take time and expend considerable thought and effort when you write it. The Statement of Purpose will stand in for you in the absence of a face-to-face meeting with your admissions committee in the initial stages of their decision making.

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    The Interview

    If you are short-listed as a probable entry, the admissions committee may want to meet you. If you live far away and cannot come in for physical meeting for whatever reason, the admissions board may ask you for a web-interview or video conference.

    If you’re called for an interview, there’s a good chance you will get in if you can convince them that you’re honest, open and dedicated to completing the course.

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    Now that you know the grad school requirements for admission in detail, you can begin your preparations in earnest. Be aware, though, that a Masters or PhD degree is a commitment not to be taken lightly.