I was so excited when Makaela from Uniquely Mickie reached out about guest posting on Samanthability! Mickie is a pharmacy student and I thought it would be cool if she shared her tips for applying to grad school! I’m personally considering grad school and could use all the help I could get, so this is a much-needed perspective! Mickie has a lot of great ideas, read on to see her top tips for applying to grad school.
Do you remember what it was like to receive that fat acceptance envelope in the mail a few years ago? I know you remember that glorious feeling, but you probably don’t miss the application process. The only difference between then and now is that graduate school is more competitive and has fewer openings for students to get into. Applying for a great professional school requires time and determination, which I know you have or else you won’t be considering on applying. Here are my 6 tips and advice that got me accepted into a professional program.
By the way, I’m a pharmacy student in my second year so trust me, I’ve been through the application process a few times too. But if you follow these tips, then you’ll be able to rock your application and make it shine!
The number one rule to picking any school that you are considering on going to is to do your research. If you get the chance to talk to current students or administrative personnel, then I would go ahead and ask any questions that you might have about the program and the school environment. Picking a college, especially a graduate school or professional school, is to find the right one for you. One that is going to fit your personality and your overall end goals.
Once you find the program that you are highly considering, then I would make a list of questions that are a high priority on your requirements to attend the program. Here are some questions that you might:
- What will my class schedule look like?
- Is there any opportunity to work in the program?
- How long is the program?
- What is the success rate of people who graduate from this college concerning job placements?
- Is there any option to only attend part-time?
- Are there any jobs in the program that I can apply to?
If you do have to work while in school, which let’s be honest that’s most people, then working for the school can kill two birds with one stone. You can get some real-life training for your degree as well as earn some extra cash to pay the bills.
It’s definitely a great idea and set up if you can work at the college while you attend, but if you can’t, no worries! There are other options for you to work and get cozy with the faculty members of the program.
Study for the GRE
Taking the GRE as early as possible is definitely essential, but the score is also what really matters. The GRE, which stands for Graduate Record Examinations, is similar to the SAT or any other standardized testing that many students have done before. The other difference is that the test scores last for 5 years and you can only take it a certain amount of times in a 12 month period. Typically, the tests will test you on your analytical skills, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning.
Just like studying for anything important, you have to plan ahead and use different techniques to study for the GRE. I would get one good study guide book to learn from as well as using flash cards, practice exams, and some other online materials. If you have some extra cash to spend, then taking a test-prep course is also a really great way to get prepared for the GRE, but they can be costly and might not be easy to find in your area.
Personally, I’m not the greatest at standardized testing. When I was applying for pharmacy school, my application was more focused on my extracurricular activities, my personal statement, and the knowledge I had built with faculty members. So just keep that in mind if you are horrible at standardized testing, you could still be accepted for other reasons. Plus, some colleges put more or less emphasis on the GRE test scores, which might be something that you want to ask each college that you are considering.
Organize your time
The second most important part about applying for grad school is to remember when all of the applications are due. Especially if you are in college attending classes, those deadlines get a pushed back into the burner for other priorities and can get lost in the mist. Don’t let that happen to you!
Keep a spreadsheet or checklist of when each application or supplemental materials are due and give yourself enough time to actually get them done before the due date.
Start the process as early as you can, preferably you’ll want to finish most of the application in the summer before the year you want to attend. Plus by leaving yourself enough to peacefully work on the application, you’ll be less likely to make small minor errors, and you’ll be less overwhelmed.
Ask the right people for recommendations
When applying to grad school, most colleges will ask for two or three recommendation letters from people who know you incredibly well. The people who you ask to write those letters are super important! They might be the turning point of whether or not you’ll get accepted into the program. The best advice that I can give for this is to target the people who are influential in your area of study.
For example, when I was applying for pharmacy school, I got a local pharmacist that I had volunteered with to write my recommendation letter. He was the perfect person to ask for numerous reasons. He even had graduated from the program that I wanted to attend and he was the profession that I wanted to go to school for. Making those connections before school is really important. You’ll hear that a lot, but it’s all about networking and who you know!
Also, don’t forget to give each person enough time to write a great recommendation letter. You don’t want to give them the form two weeks before it’s due! For one, you might get a crappy letter and two, it’s polite to give the person at least a month notice in advance. They have lives too so be considerate of their time, especially when you are asking for their help.
Write your personal statement
Your personal statement is exactly what it sounds like! It’s a simple or small statement of who you are and why you are applying for this program. This is not the time to repeat your resume or make it sound like a plead to be let in. A personal statement is the chance that you get to tell your story to the people who will be deciding to accept or deny your entry into the program.
It’s great if you have a story that connects you to the field that you are pursuing. For instance, I took a pharmacy technician program in high school which is where I learned that I loved helping others and the pharmacy profession. I also talked about how I was a military child and traveled all over the world so I was very familiar with different types of cultures and personalities. Those touches that are unique to your life are what makes you stand out to the judges.
Get cozy with the faculty
Remember when I mentioned that networking is the key to success? The more connected you can get with the faculty members of the program you are applying for, the better chances you’ll have of getting accepted. People talk to each other, and people know when you are being genuine in your interests.
- There is a number of ways that you can reach out and get to know the faculty:
- Set up an interview with a faculty member
- Get on a research project in the program or with a member of the program
- Attend local conferences or meetings held by the college
- Be a part of an organization dedicated towards your field of interest
Applying for a professional program doesn’t have to be hard or scary! It really just takes time and being patient with the entire process. Don’t get frustrated or nervous about anything. The teachers and administrative personnel really just want you to be successful and are very willing to help you along in that success, as long as you ask for help.
Have you applied for professional school or are you going to? If so, let me know your program and what you want to do once you graduate! I love hearing about what other people are studying!
Hey! I’m Makaela from Uniquely Mickie, a college & lifestyle blog. I’m currently a pharmacy student at the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy. When I’m not studying drugs or drug mechanisms, I love reading, swimming, and hanging out with friends. If you want to get access to my resource library for FREE, then click here!
Are you interested in guest posting for Samanthability? Click here for more info!