An Admissions Insider’s Advice for Applying to Graduate School

“Remember, as much as they are looking for the right student, you should be looking for the right school,” shared Chad Oppelt, Assistant Director of Graduate and Extended Studies Recruitment at The College of St. Scholastica, during a recent conversation that we had about applying to graduate school. (EHC): Thanks for chatting with us, Chad! Let’s start at the beginning — we’re finishing up our undergraduate studies, we have our eye on a particular graduate program and we’re ready to apply. What’s next?   

Chad Oppelt (CO): Take a step back and come up with your plan B… and plans C, D, E and F! Even the most competitive applicants need to apply to more than one program, because every school has a limited amount of seats for in-demand programs.

You’ll also want to set your expectations: Even the most qualified applicant may not be invited for an interview or may receive a spot on the waitlist — or may even get the dreaded denial letter. After all, you’re in a pool with the best and brightest applicants from around the country, and sometimes even the world. Be flexible and submit your harmonized application to several of the schools you could see yourself attending. Best case scenario, you get into all of them and have several choices for your studies.

EHC: Harmonized application?

CO: Don’t worry, this is not a singing lesson. Every college application, at every level, will require a mass collection of items from you and about yourself. Do not look at these items as a liability, rather as an opportunity to set yourself apart from your peers applying for the same seat.

While your GPA and test scores will be what they are, you still have plenty of freedom with other valuable real estate of the application to promote yourself. Be thoughtful when writing your essay or personal statement, and think about how it can complement, or work synergistically, with your resume, observation hours or other required materials. Admissions committees are looking for students who can clearly articulate their qualifications for the program and their goals upon completion.

EHC: Got it! So, we have our list of potential schools and we’ve harmonized our application materials — anything else that we should keep in mind as we move forward with applying to graduate school?

CO: One thing that many students don’t consider is that even in this competitive environment of graduate school and professional program admissions, it is still important to determine the appropriate fit for yourself. Interview your prospective schools, talk to admissions people, take a campus tour, meet with a professor and read reviews online.

If you are interested in making a large investment of time and tuition with an institution, you should do your research accordingly. When you do find the right school, the additional exploration you have conducted will help you prepare your application and show the University of Your Dreams you are a serious candidate.


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