7 Things to Know While Applying to Graduate School

You’ve probably heard the term ‘hindsight is 20-20’ and looking back now, the application decisions I made worked to my benefit. Applying to business school or any other graduate school program is hard work and requires commitment, therefore, I wanted to share what worked for me so you can take note and use it to your benefit. What should you know?

  1. If possible, apply in round 1 for all your tier 1 schools. If you are like me, you have a list of schools in different tiers depending on your preferences. All schools will tell you that it shouldn’t matter which round you apply in, however, that is not necessarily true. Applying in round 1 allowed me more time and flexibility to submit additional supporting paperwork and work with the school admissions when I was waitlisted. And if you eventually get a no from a tier 1 school, guess what, you can still submit a tier 2 application in later rounds. Applying in later rounds would not have allowed you this flexibility.
  2. Highlight all your seemingly not important accomplishments and volunteer opportunities in your application. Admissions counselors like well rounded individuals who give back to their communities. In my application, I talked about the work I was doing with my local Kenyan organization dedicated to helping individuals during bereavement. This gave me a lot of fodder to talk about with my MIT interviewer.
  3. If there’s an area of doubt, in your application, don’t ignore it and think admissions won’t notice it, find a way to address it in your cover letter or essays. I had a year and a half gap in college because I had to take time off to resolve my VISA issues. I made sure I found a way to discuss it in one of my essays. If you have gaps in school or employment, think through how you address them in your application.
  4. Always do the supplemental question! I cannot stress this enough. This question is usually not mandatory, but never pass up the opportunity to highlight yourself even further. In my MIT Sloan application, I put together a video which highlighted my family values and people who had inspired me growing up. I used this to show how I would be a good fit for the program. You need to find a way to tell your story and let them know the real you. Depending on the approved media, feel free to explore video, PowerPoint, song, blog, or personal webpage.
  5. Find recommenders that know you very well, and have worked with you for a long time (1-3 years) at the minimum, regardless of their title. Someone who knows you well can speak to your work ethic, projects, development and character which are ALL very important to admission counselors.
  6. Give yourself enough time to write essays, collect recommendations, redo your resume, and most importantly, find someone you trust to review all your content. I had a close friend help me through this process. Am always surprised by how many people reach out to me for help a week before applications are due, and these are strangers. It’s not fair for someone to drop everything for you – plan ahead!
  7. Read the instructions carefully and follow them to a T. If the essays say 500 words, then do that. If the videos say 2 minutes or less, then follow those instructions. Remember to spell check and use proper grammar, you always want to put your best foot forward. This is the only way the school gets to know who you are and they have to make a decision whether it’s worth it meeting you in person.

At AdviceMavens, we know the importance of planning and putting your best foot forward; that’s why our list of Mavens will be vetted and qualified to help you with your application questions. If you have any questions or comments in the mean-time, simply reach out hello@advicemavens.com

Tell us, what advice do you have for people looking to apply to any graduate school program?

Author: Anita Kibunguchy

Anita Kibunguchy is a co-founder for AdviceMavens and has an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management. She currently focuses on awareness and go-to-market strategies for a Fortune 500 B2B data center and cloud solutions company. In her spare time, she loves to hike, cook and host friends & family! Follow her on Twitter @kibuanita

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