Five pieces of advice when applying to graduate school

Yang Qing, Guest Writer

Scratching my head, shaking my legs and torturing my forehead, these are physical manifestations I have when feel like I am drowning in the application process for my master’s degree.
As an international student, all of the necessary requirements seem even more unfamiliar, challenging and complicated. Should I let those obstacles of endless testing, paperwork and letter writing get me down or prevent me from applying? No way!
Someone once taught me that the thirst for knowledge is the best teacher in one’s life. This curiosity is also my source of power, which has prompted me to share five pieces of advice that may help fellow seniors ease their minds about the graduate school application process.
First, with regard to which schools to apply, “asking” is always your best choice. Tell your professors your interests and qualifications. This includes your financial parameters, relevant test scores (GRE, TOEFL, IELTS etc.), academic and outside interests and GPA. Trust me, they always know about some university options that will suit you well. Also, consult your friends who are simultaneously going through this process or have already experienced it. Usually, they can give you tips on how they chose schools and things to expect.
The second tip is “knowing yourself.” Try to find out the answers to the following questions for each potential university: does this school really meet your intentions? Will their master’s program adequately prepare you for the career that you want? Does the campus environment, mission and community coincide with your needs? Remember, all the answers should be “you-centered” because you are the master of your future and life and will be dedicating two years of your life in this new community.
The third tip is “keep going.” You are a senior now. You must retain confidence that you have accumulated enough classes, extra-curriculars and honors to prove to the admissions office that you are qualified for this program. All you need to do is to keep perfecting your statement, resume and writing samples and organize the reference letters in advance until you are ready to submit them. Don’t forget to be polite and grateful to your professors and advisors who are helping you throughout the process.
Fourth, “don’t procrastinate.” Don’t wait until the last day to submit all your documents. That will only make you more nervous during the submission process. What if you are missing an important document? What if you have technical difficulties? These challenges can be minimized if, well ahead of time, you make a list of each school’s deadlines and the various documents needed. Then organize them in chronological order and send them off with plenty of time to spare.
The last piece of advice is “don’t worry, be happy.” Don’t get frustrated if you are anxious that certain aspects of your body of work do not satisfy your target school. Who knows—maybe they will see strengths where you don’t and will probably view your application holistically anyway. Have confidence in yourself and make sure that you highlighted your strengths and abilities in your resume and cover letter.
So once you have submitted your applications, relax, have a cup of tea and maintain a positive attitude that you are about to realize your dream of earning a master’s degree.