Friday, December 13, 2013

Graduate School Applications - What do you need???

Further Education – Application Resources

Graduate school application deadlines are fast approaching and Career Services wants to make sure you are well-prepared!

Documents required for graduate programs will vary depending on the university you are applying to. For an exact list of things to do and documents to include, consult the program website that you are applying to.

Some common documents that are required for application are: Curriculum Vitaes (CV), letters of intent/statements of interest, academic transcripts, and letters of reference. Below I have included some information about what these documents are, how to prepare them, and how Career Services can help!

1) Curriculum Vitae - Commonly known as a CV, this document can most easily be described as an academic resume. CVs demonstrate your education, academic achievements, research interests, research experience, among other important information. They are usually required when applying to academic positions or graduate school programs.
  • The main difference between a CV and a traditional Resume is that the goal of a CV is to present a full history of your academic credentials; a traditional resume presents a brief snapshot of your skills and experience that communicates your ability to perform the job you are applying to.
  •  CVs are usually much longer than a traditional resume; there usually is no maximum number of pages for a CV.
  • Research experience and interests are highlighted on a CV in order to represent your scholarly potential; teaching experience (such as experience as a Teaching Assistant) is also something that can be highlighted if you have any.
 Career Services has a variety of resources that can help you create and edit your CV:
  • Handouts: 
    • CV vs. Resume…what is the difference? 
    •  Categories for a CV
    • CV Template

 *These, and more, can be found in our Resource Centre or online! 
  • Other Print Resources: 
    • How to Prepare Your Curriculum Vitae (book) 
  • Services:
    •   Free, drop-in review sessions during office hours with a trained Career Assistant (hard copy required)

2) Letters of Intent & Personal Statements – These letters may be required as a component of your grad school application. Both types of letters demonstrate an example of your writing skills so make sure to have your letter edited as many times as you can to make sure it is perfect!

To be clear about how to write the letter, you first must know what type of letter they require. This information should be clearly outlined in the application requirements section of the program website.
  •   Letter of IntentMost common for graduate or professional schools.       
    • Focus: Your research interests, reasons for choosing the department/program and your post-degree plans 
    • Format: Proper business letter format; no longer than 2 pages unless otherwise stated
    • Language: Formal, professional, and tailored to the audience
  • Personal StatementUsually required with an application for an academic research program.
    • Focus: How your experiences (volunteer, work and personal background/characteristics) have contributed to your interest in and knowledge of the profession
    • Format: Essay format, double-space (typically); candidates may be asked to respond to broad or specific questions within the letter; page limit may be outlined in application package
    • Language: Formal, professional, and tailored to the audience; may be more personal than the letter of intent
        *General Tips for Writing:
    • Research: Review the program’s website and contact the department for specific guidelines; read the Dean’s message, the policy on admission, etc.; ensure that you provide relevant information that matched each requirement
    • Organization: Use a thematic or chronological patter of organization; consider the idea or theme – your experiences should support the theme; use effective transitions to ensure your ideas flow; avoid unnecessary repetition
    •  Content: The introduction and conclusion are very important – consider writing these after you have completed the rest of your letter/statement; represent yourself honestly and answer all questions; avoid controversial issues; pay special attention to word/page limitations and font size requirements; keep copies of your submitted application (noting when and where each was sent)
*For more Tips, drop by the Resource Centre or check out our Online Resource Centre for online versions of all of our handouts! 

3) Academic transcripts – These must be ordered from academic institutions you have attended and are official documents of that institution. They usually must arrive to the school you are applying to in a sealed and stamped envelope (done by your current institution). More about how to get these can be found on the application requirements website and on your current school’s registrar’s office website.

4) Letters of References – These are letters written by other people that can speak to your academic (usually) and/or professional competencies. Typically, graduate programs require all academic references (i.e. a professor that taught you) but in some cases, professional (someone you have worked for) or character (someone who can speak to the kind of person you are) references may be accepted. Again, consult the program application requirements for how to submit letters of references (some require them in a sealed and stamped envelope, some require them to be submitted online by the person writing the reference, and some require them to be submitted by you with your application package).

Tips for Arranging References:
    • Make friends with your professor – this doesn’t mean you need to be on a first name basis with them or see them outside of class…what it does mean is that you need to get yourself noticed by the professor so that when you request a letter of reference, they know who you are and what kind of student you are. Your reference choices should be those professors you feel know you and your academic work/abilities the best!
    • Ask early – Professors have busy lives and requesting a letter of reference a week before your application deadline just isn’t going to fly. They need time to write the letter and may also need time to review some of your previous academic work so that they can write about your abilities. Giving them such a short timespan to complete your reference also shows a lack of organization and a lack of respect for their time. Start contacting professors at least a couple of months before the deadline to give them ample time to write the letter, as well as give you time to contact your “back-up” references if your first choices decline. 
    • Have back-ups! – professors may not have time to write a reference letter for every student that asks, they may not know you well enough to feel comfortable doing it, or they may just say no for various reasons. Having a couple back-up options for a reference is crucial in case this happens so that you aren’t scrambling to get to know your professor half way through the term!

Our friends at cosmiccoachingcentre wrote a great article about this topic that I think complements this post well:

Grad school Application Materials

For those who are seriously considering applying for graduate school, it would be very helpful to find a source of information about entering a graduate school, particularly in terms of the requirements. As an interested applicant, you are encouraged to check out the website of the specific department you wish to apply to. There you will see all the detailed information regarding the process of enrolling in a graduate program. Generally speaking, though, the following are the materials that you need to prepare:

Personal Statement

Graduate school applicants are required to send a personal statement expressing their interest in enrolling in a particular graduate program. You may find that certain programs would also require you to use your personal statement to provide answers to specific questions.


Applicants are encouraged to submit a scanned copy of their transcript when they submit their application because this can help speed up the process. Those applicants who have earned their degree from international schools must include their transcripts with English translations. These documents should then be forwarded to the Graduate School admission office. As for college seniors, they are required to send their current transcripts, with the official transcript to be sent at a later time.

Letters of Recommendation

It is common for graduate school programs to require three letters of recommendations from their applicants. These recommendations must come from individuals who are qualified to attest to the applicant’s eligibility for graduate study. These letters should mention the applicant’s ability to conduct research and perform in the coursework required by the program. 


Those applying to doctoral programs are required to send to the Graduate School the results of their Graduate Record Examination or GRE. There could be some supplementary materials and other tests that will be required in some doctoral programs. Thus, you should take the time to visit the GRE page of the website of the graduate program you are considering.


Graduate School applicants coming from countries where English is not the native language must submit their official IELTS or TOEFL score. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are always a requirement for international graduate school applicants.


The interview is of course not going to be part of the graduate school application process, but it is worth noting that interviews are often used by graduate school programs to have a better look at the interested applicants. But for graduate school applicants, an interview is also a great opportunity for them to know whether or not the programs offered by the institution will be a good fit. Keep in mind that there’s a bigger reason for your decision to enter a graduate school, like for career advancement perhaps. Thus, you would want to know if the program is worth investing your time and money in.

I hope this overview of the most common graduate school application documents has helped you begin your grad school applications (although I hope you would have already started at least a portion of it already!). Good luck and don’t forget to stop by the Resource Centre Monday to Friday 9am-4:30pm with your questions, concerns, or documents for review!

Jami Coughler, Senior Career Assistant

4th Year Public Health [Honours]

BA: Sociology [Honours] ‘11

No comments:

Post a Comment