Graduate school applications materials will vary from program to program but some common materials include resume/CV, letters of recommendation, personal statement, test scores, and transcripts. It is important to stay organized in order to stay on top of applications and deadlines. Need help? Make an appointment with a Career Advisor.
You will need letters of recommendation to include with applications to graduate and professional schools. These letters should be written by professors and supervisors who know you well. It is in your best interest to find recommenders who actually know you and can provide the reader with insight as to who you are as a student, researcher, and person rather than to ask someone who gave you a good grade or knows you on a similarly surface level. You will likely need at least 3 recommendations, so think early and carefully about whom you will ask.
Tips for Getting Strong Recommendations
- Get to know your professors and/or supervisors. Take advantage of office hours. Ask questions. Participate in class.
- Ask each contact if he or she can give a positive recommendation.
- Provide each writer with a resume or list of academic and extracurricular involvements.
- Give ample time. Do not wait until the last minute.
Throughout this process you will be managing a lot of communication and confidential documents. Interfolio is an online credentials management tool to which you can subscribe. You will be able to store all letters, transcripts, etc. with 24/7 access. If you are planning to take time off between W&L and graduate or professional school this tool will allow you to gather your necessary documents while at W&L, maintain confidentiality, and then submit them at the appropriate time.
Your personal statement is a very important part of your graduate and / or professional school application. This should give the reader insight into who you are, why you are interested in a specific program, and what goals you hope to attain. You will need to write, get feedback, and revise, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time.
The personal statement plays a significant role in determining who gets an interview, but keep in mind that it will only be given about 5 minutes of an admissions officer's attention! That said, your personal statement needs to...
- sell your abilities
- show aspects of yourself that will not be developed in other areas of your application
- serve as your pitch for what makes you an ideal applicant
Types of Personal Statements
There are two types of personal statement prompts:
- One that is more general and comprehensive (usually used for Medical or Law School). For example, "Write a personal statement describing your experiences and goals."
- A response to a specific question(s) (usually used for business and graduate school). For example, "Explain why this program is the best fit for you" or "Tell us about an accomplishment that is important to you."
More specific prompt examples inlcude the following for the different types of graduate programs:
- Medical School:
Use this section of the application to compose a personal essay explaining why you want to study the field of medicine.
- Law School:
Please provide a separate essay not to exceed two double-spaced typed pages using 12 point font. In this essay you may discuss any attributes, experiences, or interests that would enable you to make a distinctive contribution to the law school and/or the legal profession.
- Business School:
Essay #1: In 600 words or less, briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your
future career plans and your motivation for pursuing an MBA.
Essay #2: Complete the following statement, ‘people may be surprised to learn that I...'
Essay #3: Tell us about an accomplishment you are proud of and how it relates to the person you are.
Examples of Personal Statements:
Read more on the Do's and Don'ts of personal statements here.
3 Basic Parts of Successful Personal Statements:
1. Tell your story
- include pertinent background and qualifications
- personal attributes
2. Discuss your future
- tie your qualifications and past experiences to your future short-term and long-term goals
- allow for change and adaptability
3. Explain how the graduate program connects your story to your future
- articulate this clearly and think about your fit to the particular program and how this opportunity will help you achieve your academic and/or professional goals
This list of links should be helpful as you get started:
- Gradschools.com: includes more than 100 pages of instruction for personal statement writing
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
- Quintessential Careers
- W&L Writing Center