Applications are typically due during the fall semester, about a year before you plan to attend the graduate program. Keep in mind that most application components require significant time to develop and you will need to begin preparing for your application process several months before your applications are actually due.
Many graduate school programs require applicants to submit a personal statement as part of the application process. Personal statements typically consist of questions related to how you became interested in a field, your professional goals, or aspects of your character and background that make you a qualified candidate. A personal statement may also be referred to as a letter of intent, statement of purpose, or other name that represents a narrative essay. Regardless of the name, be sure that you carefully follow any writing prompt specifications that are outlined by the graduate institution.
For assistance with personal statement writing, you can schedule an appointment with your career advisor at the Career Planning & Development Center or at the Writing Center within the Reeg Academic Resource Center. Additional personal statement resources include the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) and the University of Alberta Personal Statement Guidebook.
References and Letters of Recommendation
You may be asked to provide a list of references or one or more letters of recommendation as part of the application process for admittance to graduate school. When determining who to select as a reference or to write letters of recommendation, consider the following:
- Have you interacted with this individual over time?
- Has this individual had opportunity to observe your academic/professional growth?
- Would this individual be able to describe your academic/professional strengths?
- Would this individual be able to speak to your ability to succeed in your intended graduate program?
Common examples of references or sources of letters of recommendation include current or former instructors, advisers, or job/internship supervisors.
Requesting a Letter of Recommendation
Reach out to request letters of recommendation well in advance of the application deadline, leaving plenty of time (six weeks or more) for your prospective recommender to craft their letter. You should include information in your request to remind them of your relationship and your background, the deadline for the letter to be submitted, and instructions for submission. You might also provide a resume or CV so that they have information about the breadth of your skills and experience, some of which they might not have had the opportunity to observe.
Sample Request Letter
Dear Professor Gorlok:
I'm reaching out to share the exciting news that I am in the process of applying for graduate study in public policy. As part of the application process, I've been asked to submit letters of recommendation.
When enrolled in your American National Institutions, Comparative Politics, and Advanced Studies in International Politics courses, I believe you had an opportunity to evaluate my educational capabilities and could comment on my suitability to complete a graduate program in public policy. Would you be willing to write a recommendation letter on my behalf?
I'll be applying to three programs, so I've attached a document outlining the deadlines for each and instructions provided by each institution for submitting a letter. I've also attached my resume so that you can understand how my coursework pairs with my extra-curricular activities and work experience. If you're unable to write a recommendation, please let me know by September 1.
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions. I very much appreciate your consideration and time.
Some graduate schools may require candidates to participate in an in-person, phone, or technology-based interview.
Prepare for an interview by reviewing the application requirements and essay prompts to discern the types of questions that might be asked. Develop and practice potential responses ahead of time so that you can be prepared to answer them confidently and effectively.
You may also want to consult with faculty members or students familiar with the program in order to prepare and discuss questions to ask the interviewer(s).
Consider scheduling a mock interview appointment with your career advisor to practice for your graduate school admissions interviews.
Maintain an awareness of application timelines and selection processes. If applying to multiple programs, employ a system (e.g., spreadsheets, email labels, calendar reminder alerts, cloud drive folders) that aligns with your organizational style to manage and track application components throughout the application process.