(Closed) How did you get into your competitive grad school?

posted 7 years ago in College
Post # 3
Member
1940 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

I am finishing up a doctorate degree and will be starting a Master’s degree this summer (I’ll be doing both at once for a year).  Once you get past the GPA and meeting minimum requirements, acceptance to a program has a lot to do with marketing yourself.  Basically, what unique qualifications/ interests/ perspectives will you bring to their program and the profession? 

I would definitely encourage you to schedule a day to visit campus and talk to current students if you have not done so.  I give tours and have lunch with perspective students at my university, and it they often ask great questions about the admissions process from a student perspective (as well as many other questions about what the program entails, housing, etc. etc)

Also, have you shadowed several professionals in the area you are interested in?  How about other career fields?  Sometimes it can be nice to be able to say that you explored other career opportunities, but you felt drawn to this particularly area.

Typically, if you can make it to interview day (if the school has interviews), your chances of acceptance increase tremendously.  On interview day, obviously dress professionally (a conservative suit) and come prepared with a list of questions that you have (not like “how many people applied last year.”  more like “I have current interests in this specialty/ subset/population.  What research is being done at your university in this area?”)

Good luck with the process! 

Edit: Just for my knowledge, what is a DIS program?  I’m curious 🙂

Edit #2: Make sure your letters of recommendation (LOR) come from people who really know you (and are unrelated to you of course).  For my doctorate program, they strongly encouraged letters of application from current healthcare professionals that we knew from working, shadowing etc.  They receive letters from people sometimes who say “well, this person shadowed me for 3 hours.”  That’s clearly not going to make a good impression!

Post # 6
Member
610 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

Ah, just went through this process and was accepted to a top ten school for my field.  My field is completely unrelated, but I’ll give you my tips.

1.  Start working on your personal statement now.  Even if you are applying for the next school year.  It is what will set you apart.  I tweaked mine for months, and had a handful of professors give me feedback throughout the process.  A great personal statement can put you in front of candidates with similar qualifications. This is no time for humility. Toot your horn loud.

2.  Visit the schools before you apply, if it is an option.  This will give you valuable face time with the faculty and a better feel for the fit of the program.

3.  It is all about fit.  Know the schools your loooking at and what their strengths are.  Make sure your experience and your future work interests compliments the program. ie I knew my first choice program had a heavy background in war journalism and media law.  I made sure the admissions committee knew these were my areas of interest.

4.  Make sure your letters of recommendations are stellar.  You will want to waive your right to read them, but pick the people you know will write amazing things about you.  A great letter of recommendation doesn’t guarantee admission, but a neutral/bad letter is hard to overcome.   

Check out this online forum.  I got a lot of great tips and I was able to connect with other applicants in a wide variety of fields. 

http://www.thegradcafe.com/

Good luck!!

 

Post # 7
Member
1940 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

@Ms.Pink: The DIS sounds like a great opportunity!  Are there any opportunities for you to present your work as part of a poster or paper (typically with the professor)?  If you look, often times there are opportunities even on your own campus. 

I will receive my Doctor of Pharmacy degree and Master of Public Health degree.  Hopefully I’ll be accepted to a fellowship post-graduation 🙂

Post # 8
Member
2463 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

i’m in a competitive phd program. all fields/programs are a little bit different, but in my field, “fit” with the department and especially individual faculty who will be your advisors is key. definitely talk to the professors you will want to work with and ask them for advice about applying.

Post # 9
Member
2142 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

@EvaBostonTerrier: and @Scottielass: How early did you guys ask for LOR? I have one excellent reference (head of my area of interest at a very large state commission who I interned under) who has already said she would gladly write letters of recommendation for scholarships, grad school and fellowships but I have two more I need to ask (debating between 2 professors in my major and 1 in my minor that I’ve used for my internship LOR last year).

Post # 10
Member
610 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

I asked 3 months out for my top 3 choices, and 2 months out for my “backups”.  Most turned the letters around pretty quick (within 3 weeks).  One of my top choices is notorious for running up to the wire with deadlines, though.  I got that one about a week before the application deadline.  Hence the pursuit of backup recommenders Wink.

Post # 11
Member
1940 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

I basically brought up the LOR in conversation with the individuals as soon as I knew I would be applying for the program to see if they would be willing to write them.  As soon as I knew what was required in the LOR, I provided it to the 4 people I had already approached.  Basically, I asked them ahead of time.

Post # 12
Member
853 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2011

work your mentors: ask them to speak with other colleagues at the school you are interested in. My professors in my grad program have basically told me that when I want to persue my PhD to call them so they can call their peers at the school I”m applying for (my field is somewhat new, and there’s a HUGE network/clique within the field. My profs graduated from the top 3 schools in the field and each said they’d make phone calls for me). Obviously, if it’s a larger field like Psych, you should still see if any faculty members know anyone at the school you are interested in.

Also, research helps. Get involved with faculty that is conducting research and go to conferences to network. Within our field, some conferences are basically for recruiting PhD students and displaying research.

Post # 13
Member
2142 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

@bunnyfoofoo: I discovered the other day that the director of my first choice program is pretty much the twin of the director of where I am now- no wonder he recommended that I look at them. Worked at the same smaller historic village, same age, and have fascination with chairs. Funny how small professional circles are

Post # 14
Member
2271 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2009

Well it definitely is NOT the same as the undergraduate process. It is almost essential to have a professor at the grad school basically agree to be your advisor (or supervisor if you are trying to get the school to pay your tution). Check out the backgrounds and research interests of the professors in your discipline at your chosen school to help with the process.

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