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7 Tips For Navigating The Graduate School Admissions Process

Why are YOU afraid of no?

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Why are you afraid to hear the word no? Does it make you question everything you have ever done in life, or make you actually question if you in all of your excellence are worthy? Humans are consistently wallowing in self- doubt and deeply rooted with questions of self-worthiness even if it’s simply their own thoughts creating this doubt.

In a cognitive-phenomenological analysis conducted by (Lazarus & Launier, 1978) research indicates that there are varying types of relationships that occur between person and environment. The three key most stress related relationships are challenge, threat and harm-loss based relationships. A person seeking to attain some level of success be it professionally or romantically will physically undergo each of these barriers even if self-induced.

The purpose of this article is to teach each of you how to find the value of yourself while navigating the graduate admissions process. Try not to psyche yourself up so much, that you actually psyche yourself OUT of an opportunity that could be beneficial in your own life’s journey. 

How do successful people become more successful? Well for starters and according to (Goldsmith & Reiter, 2007) this is accomplished because believe it or not successful people actually believe in their own skills and talent. Whodathunkit?! In addition to these thoughts, successful people often have a life’s mantra one that drives their success. What is it? It’s simple: I HAVE SUCCEEDED, I AM BORN TO SUCCEED, and I WILL SUCCEED AGAIN! In addition to these wonderfully charismatic traits, successful people are not afraid to ask for what they want (more about this down below…I promise).

One of the most obvious trends as it pertains to students of color, and the lower enrollment numbers of these students into graduate programs is due to (you guessed it) STANDARDIZED TESTING! Research shows that more often than not, students of color shy away from applying to graduate programs or top schools because of two things 1. Their GPA and 2. Test scores. African American and Latino students struggled in high school with anxiety surrounding the SAT (WALPOLE, et al., 2005). This is also comparable within the same demographic of students to their anxiety aimed toward graduate school admissions exams.

If you or someone you know is interested in navigating this process, please see below helpful tips. (Note: These tips are not a promise to gain admission, it is simply to help you navigate the process):

1.Sell Yourself! The application is a living breathing document, it is the only way to show admissions teams who you are and what you bring to the table. If you’re serious about an advanced degree, why would you shortchange your opportunity by providing a lukewarm application? This means writing a new statement of purpose for each school, this might seem like a ridiculous request but it can’t be any more ridiculous than you applying for 50 schools and only changing the name of the school within your statement.

2. Write an Addendum! If you have academic blemishes (Note: C’s, D’s, and F’s) on your transcript why would you submit that document without an explanation? Everyone knows that things in life happen such as illness, death of a relative, military service, or depression. So, why not address this in a separate statement? I know, more writing! However, believe it or not, admissions representatives are still human and although metrics are important so is the quality of the student. In short, not addressing these blemishes makes it seem as if you don’t care. So if you don’t care to address it, why should they care to assume or even better admit YOU?

3. Complete and Submit Your Apps Timely! There is nothing more frustrating for an admissions team than to have to chase down an applicant for their documentation, or to have to jump through hoops post deadline because you sat on your application until the last minute. Give yourself a fighting chance, complete the application on time and accurately.

4. Standardized... Schmandardized! The all-important standardized exam, the bane of most respectable human being’s existence! Prepare as best you can, try your hardest, and do your best and if at the end it doesn’t turn out like you had hoped, realize the world will not end. Touch your arm, touch your face, tickle your nose and guess what? You’re still here! There are tons of opportunities to re-test and properly prepare. Guess what else? Tons of schools are moving away from these exams as a barrier for admission. Contact your school of choice, and ask if there is an opportunity to waive the GRE/GMAT based upon relevant work experience. The worst they can say to you is no. If they do, guess what you’re STILL here! Look at schools who offer your program, I’m sure you’d be pleasantly surprised how many options you actually have. For the naysayers, no I’m not referring to for-profit institutions...as you were...

5. Do You Personally Know Your CEO? Everyone loves to name drop, and defer to someone else’s title or accomplishment as somewhat of an accolade of their own. Here’s a dirty little admissions secret, those letters actually get read and sometimes out loud in front of the entire admissions staff. So, why would you allow someone who doesn’t know you personally to be the determining factor in whether you get into Howard Law, Yale Med, USC MAT, or JCSU MSW? There is nothing worse than John submitting a letter where the recommender refers to him throughout as Jessica! *inserts face palm* That is unless of course, John identifies as Jessica, but that’s a whole separate article!

6. Spellcheck! Proofread your personal statements, and even request (if at all possible) to proofread the letter that your recommender will be submitting on your behalf. There is nothing more horrifying than a recommendation with margin, spelling, and incorrect applicant name errors.

7. CONGRATS! You Have Been Admitted! Congrats! The biggest hurdle has been crossed, and now we can all breathe a sigh of relief right? Right? Wrong! Now is the time where you put your grown up pants on and begin to ask for not only what you want, but what you need (I told you we’d get back to it). Consider this the same offer that you would get from an employer. You’re reading the offer and you’re excited but then there is that feeling in the pit of your stomach that wonders if you’re being low-balled? Tip: Most graduate programs much like employers do not rescind offers simply because you asked for more money! If you receive an offer from a school of your choice, and you’re not satisfied contact the program directly. I’d suggest writing a letter and e-mailing it. It should indicate your excitement for being admitted, but it should also address your concerns with the financial burden of school. Explain your long term goals, and how having a student like you can be beneficial to the school as well as your future.

Use these tips, share these tips and apply these tips! You never know you just might help change someone’s life. Maybe even yours!

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Higher Education Professional. Doctoral Student. 1906.Woke. Cali born,NY Raised, DMV Livin.
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