Did you know that: Although applications are sent to the admissions office, it is a committee of faculty that makes the decision to accept a candidate into a graduate program?

To facilitate the time consuming process of completing applications

  • Be organized from the very beginning
  • Keep materials in the original envelope and record dates on the outside
  • Maintain a calendar and set your own deadlines for completing tasks
  • Prioritize the tasks you’ll need to accomplish

Major Tasks

  • Prepare for required standardized tests.
  • Send for applications during the summer before your senior year.
  • Make a list of what each institution requires.
  • Find out when these institutions start to accept applications.
  • Learn about rolling admissions and deferred acceptance policies.
  • Take the appropriate standardized test(s) and have the scores sent to the institutions.
  • Request transcripts from ALL the undergraduate schools you attended.
  • Obtain letters of recommendation.
  • Do rough drafts of applications on photocopied forms.
  • Prepare an outstanding statement of purpose.
  • Apply to as many programs as seem to fit your areas of interest and to a range of programs: prestigious, highly competitive, larger programs where there is a greater possibility of acceptance, lesser known program but excellent faculty involved in the latest research.
  • Complete and return all financial aid applications.
  • Send all required application materials.
  • Follow-up to be sure all transcripts and letters of recommendation were received.
  • Discretely find a way to be sure your recommendations letter have been sent by the required deadline.

Application Requirements

Since admission and application requirements will vary for different fields and institutions, be sure to read carefully what is required for each individual program.

The application packet usually includes…

The application Submitted by you
Application fee Find out if you are eligible for a waiver
A statement of purpose Prepared and submitted by you
Transcripts Requested by you, but submitted by Registrars’ Offices
Financial Aid application Submitted by you. Check deadline, may be earlier than application deadline.
Letters of Recommendation Submitted directly by recommenders OR may be returned to you in sealed envelopes for you to include with your application materials.
Standardized test scores Submitted directly by ETS etc.

Application Fee Waiver Programs

If you are currently receiving need based financial aid, you may qualify for the application fee waiver program that many institutions have. You should contact the admissions office at the institution to which you are applying to find out what you have to do. Usually, you will need a letter from the undergraduate financial aid office.

Fee waivers are also available at some institutions where they are recruiting individuals because of underrepresentation in programs.

Check catalogs for statements about affirmative action and fee waiver policies.

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines will vary. Most are between January and March, but some are as early as December. Many schools have a rolling admissions policy and will act on applications as they are received.

For highly competitive programs, applications should be submitted as soon as the institution starts to accept applications. (Check catalogs/websites for these dates.) In any case, it is wise to submit applications at least a month in advance of the stated deadline..

Apply Early!

Here are some important reasons to encourage you to submit your applications early:

  • They are often read in the order they are received even if there is an application deadline.
  • Since it is your responsibility to be sure that all supporting materials are submitted by the deadline, it will give you time to re-submit any documents that might be lost the mail.
  • Early applications suggest that you are an organized individual with a special interest in the program.

Take the Required Standardized Test(s) For Admission

Scores on the required graduate admissions tests are definitely a factor that is considered in determining your acceptance into a graduate program. To be accepted into some programs, you will have to achieve a certain score or your application will not be given any further consideration. Others are inclined to look at the total picture.

Check catalogs/websites for required testing for specific programs and be sure to take these tests as early as possible

Most programs will require you to take the graduate record examination general test and some will also require a gre subject test.

Some programs require you to take the miller analogies test (mat) or allow this as an alternative. You can make an appointment at the drew counseling and psychological services center to take this.

Graduate Record Examinations

Refer to the gre information & registration booklet for all registration information and sample questions. Read it thoroughly and many of your questions will be answered. Pick up your free copy in the career center.

Nature of the gre general test:
This test yields scores for the verbal, quantitative, and analytical abilities related to success in graduate school. Scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly.

The verbal measure has questions concerning: antonyms, analogies, sentence completions, and reading comprehension.

The quantitative measure asks quantitative questions and problem solving questions which tests the mastery of mathematical concepts, ability to reason quantitatively and solve problems in a quantitative way. Questions will cover: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.

The analytical measure includes questions involving: analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, analysis of explanations, and pattern identification.

GRE Subject Tests

Subject tests are offered in 16 areas. Speak with your professors about the best way to prepare for these.  Dates for Subject tests are limited.  Be sure to consult the GRE booklet for complete information.

When should you take the GRE tests?

  • Take the general test no later than December of your senior year, earlier if possible.

Computerized Testing

The Gre General Test is now given only on the computer through the Computer-Based Testing (CBT) Program.

  • It can be taken all year and is offered frequently at many locations.
  • You can see your score instantly when you finish or cancel the score before seeing it if you believe you did not do well.
  • You can choose up to four score recipients after you’ve seen the scores and before you leave the test site.

Scores are reported in 10 to 15 days after you take the test.

See the annual gre information and registration bulletin for testing centers.

Scores are sent to four recipients. You may pay an additional amount to have scores sent to more schools.

Note: when you complete the registration form, be sure to indicate in the appropriate oval that you are also registering for the graduate student locater service and/or the minority graduate student locater that was mentioned earlier.

Waivers for testing fees are available to students receiving need based financial aid. Stop by the financial aid office to pick up the appropriate form.


Preparation can improve test scores. You can order practice tests from ETS when you register for the GRE . . At major book stores, you can purchase test preparation books. Software is also available. Test preparation courses are offered by The Princeton Review, Kaplan Review Courses and others.


The advantages of taking review courses are that they provide test taking strategies, the opportunity to budget time while working under pressure and scheduled, structured time to prepare.

If your undergraduate study has not stressed the quantitative, then these courses provide you with an excellent review.

These courses can be costly and the whole process of applying to graduate school can get quite expensive. Just keep in mind that the real key to success in preparing for these tests is discipline and practice!

  • Make the time to review and do the practice tests. The more practice tests you do, the better prepared you will be. You will become familiar with the format, types of questions, and the instructions.
  • Time yourself when you do these practice tests so that you will become accustomed to working under the pressure of time restrains.

Miller Analogies Test (MAT)

Sometimes the mat will be accepted in place of the gre. You should review the sample questions in miller analogies test candidate information booklet to decide if you are likely to score higher on this test. This booklet is available in the counseling center.

The mat is a high level mental ability test consisting of 100 partial analogies that are to be completed in 50 minutes.

Contact counseling and psychological services for further information or to make an appointment to take this test here at drew.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

A special note for international students: Graduate schools require an indication of competency in English. This can be demonstrated by a satisfactory score on the TOEFL exam.

Complete the Application Form

Do not underestimate the importance of the application form!

Although it asks for the usual personal data and background information, it is often the document that makes the first impression on the reader. From its appearance, subconscious judgments are made, such as…

“This is a precise, organized, thorough, detail oriented, neat individual.”

Check to see if you can download the application and complete it on the computer.  If you must do it by hand, remember that
neat, clear  handwriting will project a very positive impression.

Here are some suggestions..

  • Be consistent and use your full legal name on all forms (as well as in signing up for the standardized tests).
  • First do rough drafts on copies of applications.
  • Preferably type final copy without any errors.
  • Fill it out clearly, completely and accurately, especially dates and GPA
  • Check for correct spelling
  • Be sure that your social security number is recorded accurately.
  • Before mailing, make photocopies to keep for your records.
  • File your copies of these application materials in the envelope or folder where you are keeping all your information and research on that program.

Prepare the statement of purpose/personal statement/essay/answers to specific questions

The personal essay is your opportunity to present yourself as an excellent candidate for a particular graduate program. It’s a critical part of your application because it gives the admissions committee a sense of who you are and what you have to offer.

Use your essay to show:

  • What you want to accomplish and how a specific program will help you to achieve your goals.
  • How your background and academic work prepares you for the program.
  • How you are able to write and communicate ideas effectively.
  • Experiences you have had that make you a good candidate for the program.

Each institution will ask you to follow a specific essay format or will ask you to respond to questions. Although you may already have a general statement prepared, be sure to tailor each essay to the particular program you are applying for at each institution.

Organizing your essay

  • From the materials you’ve read and what you’ve learned about the faculty and the program, ask …specifically, why do you want this particular program?
  • Write as if you had the person sitting in front of you and you were speaking directly to him/her.
  • Be positive, enthusiastic, sincere, and concise
  • As you respond to the topic or questions, be sure to include:
    • What you want them to know about you— from where did your interest in this program come? Did something happen in your school, personal life, internship/work/volunteer experiences that sparked your interest?
    • What makes you unique— something that not just anyone could say, make it personal with a life or work experience you had.
    • Why you believe you should be accepted into this program.
    • What you will bring to this program— skills, motivation, personal qualities.
  • Write an excellent first sentence that draws the reader into your essay and makes them want to know more about you.
  • Conclude with an interesting, positive ending.

Writing advice

Remember to:

  • List your ideas
  • Make an outline
  • Prepare a first draft
  • Edit the draft—watch for typos, grammar mistakes, run on sentences
  • Is the writing style too stiff?
  • Re-write
  • Be sure you have followed all the guidelines of the graduate institution
  • Have your essay critiqued by the Writing Center and by professors in your field
  • Include all the revisions
  • Review the final draft carefully
  • Prepare the final version

Dealing with negatives

Few people are perfect for every graduate program. You may have lower than desired grades or test scores. Perhaps you’re lacking related experience. If so…..

  • Discuss your perceptions with professors in related fields and/or a Career Center counselor. You may be too critical of what you have to offer.
  • If you determine from meetings with professors/counselors or grad school admissions officials that the best advice is to mention a negative, then…..
  • Refer to the negative factor briefly and try to turn it around to a positive. Explain the circumstances and how you overcame them later on. Explain what you have learned from the experience that makes you a better candidate.
  • Ask your recommenders to comment on how you dealt with this negative in their letters of recommendation.
  • Look for an appropriate place in the application to mention the problem. There may be a related question or a place for “other considerations.”
  • Don’t end an essay with a negative item.
  • Ask your proofreaders to give you feedback on the tone and feel of your explanation.
  • It’s okay to talk about failures, especially if you were later able to overcome them.


  • Type the essay on your computer. Write “see attached sheet for essay” on any forms provided by the institution.
  • Type your full name on any sheets you attach to the application forms.
  • Keep paragraphs to no longer than approximately ten lines.
  • Unless otherwise required, single space, but skip two lines between paragraphs.
  • Use a standard font such as arial or times roman with 11 or 12 point type.

Don’t forget to ask for editing and proofreading assistance

Request official transcripts from the registrar’s office

Your official transcript is an important part of your applications. Your GPA, as well as the type of courses you have taken are carefully reviewed to see if you have the potential to be successful and if you have taken the required courses necessary for admission.

Official Transcripts

You will need to submit official transcripts (which have a raised seal) from all undergraduate schools you have attended, even those for summer courses.

Student Copy of the Transcript

It is a good idea to request a student copy of your transcript for your own records.

Transcripts are obtained from the Registrar’s office.

You will need to complete a form.   Allow 5-7 business days for processing.  Contact the Registrar’s Office for additional information

For other institutions:

Call or visit if necessary to find out their procedures and fees.

When you mail out your request for these official transcripts, send along a self-addressed stamped postcard.

Type or write on it a simple message, such as:

“(Your name’s) transcripts were mailed on ____________”


If you do not receive your postcard and it is about one month after your request, then call the Registrar’s Office or the Admissions Office to find out if the transcript was sent or received. A transcript that arrives AFTER an application deadline, could result in your rejection by a program.

Obtain high quality letters of recommendation

Most graduate schools require three letters of recommendation.

Choose professors in whose courses you have done well, and have demonstrated your potential and independent thinking.

Choose people who know you personally, your goals, and academic abilities, and of course people who have a high opinion of you! Your smaller liberal arts college background should serve you well here since faculty are able to provide more personalized letters of recommendation.

Your recommenders should have an understanding of the field you are pursuing and be able to compare you with other students who have had similar goals. Their position and reputation in the field is also a plus. In some cases, recommenders can be internship supervisors.

It is suggested that you sign the waiver of your right to see the letter of recommendation. The confidentiality factor increases the weight the letter carries as part of the application or employers.

Credential’s File

You can set up a credentials’ file in the CAREER CENTER. Here you can maintain copies of your letters of recommendation. This is especially useful if you do not plan to go to graduate school right away.

On the other hand, “generalized” recommendations may not be as convincing as individualized ones written with a specific school or program in mind. At a later date, recommenders could use these as a basis for writing an up dated letter.

Requesting letters of recommendation

  • Ask the person if he/she feels comfortable about writing a letter of recommendation for you.
  • Set up an appointment to review your goals and reasons for wanting to attend graduate school.
  • Provide recommenders with all the forms and addressed stamped envelopes for each school at one time if possible. Indicate any instances when letters are to be returned to you for inclusion with your application materials.
  • Give them supporting material to help them write the letters, such as:
    • your statement of purpose (which they may have already reviewed)
    • unofficial copy of your transcript
    • your resume
    • copy of a research paper
  • Discuss whether you have waived the right to read the recommendation.
  • Put everything in a manila envelope and label on the outside:”LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATIONS FOR _________________”,thenList the names of the institutions and the date(s) by which you would like the letters mailed.
  • Include a note thanking them for their time and again indicate when letters should be mailed.
  • As due dates approach, think of a polite way to remind recommenders about the letters you need.
  • After you have been accepted, tell your recommenders the good news and be sure to write thank you notes.

Mail application materials well in advance of deadlines

  • Make copies!  Be sure to make copies of everything you send to a school
  • Send materials out at least a month in advance of the deadline, if not sooner! This is especially true if the institution has a highly competitive program or  a rolling admissions policy.
  • Mail the application materials to the CORRECT address.
  • Review everything one last time before sealing the envelope. Check to be sure that there are no blank spaces on the application form and that your are including everything required.
  • Politely and diplomatically remind recommenders to send out letters by the due dates.
  • Follow-up with registrar’s offices to be sure that transcripts were mailed or will be mailed in time to meet deadlines.
  • Include a cover letter
    • Write a brief cover letter to accompany your application materials.
    • Keep it simple. Indicate the program you are applying for and why you believe it is the right one for you.
    • List all the items you are including in the envelope.
    • Mention the names of the recommenders who will be sending letters.
  • Send a self-addressed stamped postcard to confirm receipt of application materials or send the material by registered mail, return receipt requested.
  • Call in about a week to be sure that your application materials were received.