10 steps on the way to Master's degree

Step-by-step guide to preparing for admission

The decision to apply to graduate school should not be made in haste. Studying can take years and cost you a lot of money if things don't go according to plan. However, you shouldn't delay your decision until October of your senior year. If you want to put together a truly successful application that will open the doors of any university in front of you, start planning and preparing in advance for a more detailed study of your chosen field. What do you need to do to do this? Just follow our step-by-step instructions created especially for you.

1. Don't decide ahead of time

There's no point in thinking about graduate school before you've taken the core courses in your major. Only then can you figure out if you are ready to dedicate your life to this field and if you can succeed in the profession.

The golden rule: If you are serious about applying to graduate school, you should get mostly A's (at least more A's than F's) in your major courses. In the leading universities, the competition for graduate school is about 10 people per place, and it is unlikely that there will be C's among the applicants.

2. Prepare your background

In order to attend many graduate programs, you need to have a certain set of skills, such as reading specialized literature in one or more foreign languages, having an advanced knowledge of statistics or another branch of knowledge. Make sure you are familiar with the requirements in advance and take the courses, even if they are not required for undergraduate completion. Otherwise, you may have trouble getting in, or you may have a lot of catching up to do already during your studies.

3 Don't limit yourself to one instructor

It's hard to resist the temptation to choose several subjects from one instructor, especially if you like him or her and you always do well on their exams. But herein lies a common mistake: relying on the point of view of a single scholar is impossible to develop successfully in any field. In any case, you will need at least 3 letters of recommendation for admission to graduate school. If the professors don't know you, there will be no one to write recommendations.

4. Choose more challenging courses

Don't skip courses with research seminars, colloquia, coursework, and any other courses in your major. These are the ones where you can demonstrate your knowledge of the subject and what you've accomplished in the field, at least compared to others. This will give you an extra chance.

Tip: Don't take useless courses that are taught by teachers who are not too outstanding and that are taught at the university "for show". They certainly won't get you anything for graduate school.

5. Try it first

Try taking a master's course at your university, if possible (especially if it's in an industry you're interested in). Do an internship or join a research project at your university. You'll get an understanding of master's degrees and research projects, and you'll get to know people who can write really good recommendations for you.

6. Get a minimum score of 148 on the GRE*

Some universities won't even accept your application if your score on the exam is below 148. The passing threshold for top universities is even higher at 166.

GRE is the U.S. graduate admissions test. 

7. Get three great recommendations

For the graduate admissions committee, what the recommendation letter says is as important as who wrote it. The best recommendations are from well-known faculty members who have made a name for themselves in the research industry, gave you an A on the exam, and can talk in detail about you and your work. Less helpful would be letters from people no one in their field has heard of, from a department you are not in (only if you are not planning to enter an interdisciplinary program), but the worst option is from a relative, minister, or friend on VKontakte.

Trouble may also arise if you do not have a recommendation from a leading faculty member in the department. Many universities will immediately suspect something is wrong if you plan to apply to a certain field, but your application will not include a letter from the professor of the corresponding discipline in your university. So plan ahead. When you choose your courses, think about getting to know the three professors who will write you letters of recommendation.

Great advice: Have your undergraduate papers and give them to your professor when you ask him to write a recommendation. Then he can mention the features and quality of the work you've done, instead of just writing about what a great person you are. The more details the letter contains, the better.

8. Prepare a worthwhile writing sample.

Many universities require a writing sample, and it can play a huge role in the student selection process. Try to turn in as good a paper as possible - its topic, methodology, argumentation, and quality of text should tell you that you can write a master's-level paper. Pay special attention to the length of the paper: if the university asks for a 20-page text, they are unlikely to be happy to receive your 100-page graduate paper. (Conversely, if they have asked you to write a journal article, your 4-page response will certainly not satisfy them.) If you're not sure you understand what's required of you, ask the academic department or ask a faculty member you trust to help you with this important part of the application, which is often not given enough attention.

9. Write a stunning essay.

Most universities require you to write an essay in which you talk about your admissions goal. In it, you should focus on one or two projects you plan to pursue in graduate school. Also reflect what skills and experience you already have for these projects. Your essay should be about your research plans, not an extended autobiography or extensive description of how you like this field-at least not if you want to use it for admission.

10. Take off the rose-colored glasses.

In graduate school, you have many more courses to take and many more hours of tedious work to do in the subject you've chosen. Give up on the idea that if you get into a master's in psychology, every course will tell you how to read people like an open book. You have a long way to go in graduate school. Before you apply, think about whether you really need it and whether you know what you'll be doing there.

Translate by Natalia Sklyomina

2022-01-14 07:13:16
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