Applying to graduate school can be a complex and demanding process, and even small mistakes can significantly impact the success of an application. Here are some common mistakes applicants often make when applying to graduate school:

1. Weak personal statement
Writing a generic personal statement that doesn’t specifically address why you are interested in the particular program or how you align with its goals can hurt your chances. While you will have a general template for your personal statement, you should tailor each statement to the program you’re applying to.

2. Mediocre letters of recommendation
Choosing recommenders who do not know you well, or failing to provide them with sufficient information about you, can result in vague or unenthusiastic recommendations. Get to know your LOR writers – visit professors in office hours, set up coffee shop meetings with supervisors, prepare a strong CV for your recommenders (that includes information that they wouldn’t have known about you). You should also discuss with your recommenders what you’d like them to highlight in their letters – and be sure to thank them after the letters have been written – an email, thank you card or even a box of chocolates will be most appreciated!

3. Ignoring the program’s fit
Applying to programs without thoroughly researching if they fit your academic interests, career goals, and preferred location can lead to dissatisfaction if you are accepted and enroll. What are the current students like? What are their outcomes?

4. Not showcasing research interests
If you are applying to research-based master’s programs or doctoral programs, you must articulate your research interests and how they align with the program and its faculty to make your application more compelling. If you don’t know exactly what you want to research in grad school, that is fine! Most students determine and define more clearly their research interests in the first year (or two, for Ph.D. programs); but you should have a general, if not specific, idea of your research intentions.

5. Overemphasis on GPA and test scores
While academic performance is important, overemphasizing your GPA and standardized test scores without highlighting your experiences, skills and potential contributions to the program can be a mistake. The numbers don’t tell your (entire) story – instead, you need to tell graduate admissions officers your story through your essays, personal statement and interview. And others round out your story with their letters of recommendation.

6. Not networking
Failing to reach out to current students, alumni or faculty members – at the programs of interest – to gain insights about the program can result in a less informed application.

Avoiding these common mistakes requires careful planning, attention to detail and thorough research. By presenting a well-rounded, thoughtful and tailored application, you can significantly improve your chances of being accepted into your desired graduate program. Book your introductory call with us to get expert advice on crafting a compelling application.

About the author
Cecilia Yan

Cecilia earned a BA from University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and an MS from Boston University, where she focused her studies on public relations and marketing. Cecilia oversees graduate programs: business development, partnerships, marketing and counselors. She also works with China partnerships. Originally from China, Cecilia is a native Mandarin speaker.

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