Top three rules for preparing your graduate school/scholarship application
1. START EARLY • 2. START EARLY • 3. START EARLY
Talk to your professors • Talk to them about your interests • Ask them for advice about potential programs and supervisors • Ask them about their availability/willingness to write a reference • Make arrangements to follow up with them as you proceed through the application process, especially if they will be writing a reference
Start shaping your plan of study • Try to trace the line of thinking that links what you’re hoping to do in grad school from what you’ve done as an undergrad • What are the ‘gaps’ in existing research that you’ve identified in previous work? That others have identified? • Research who’s doing what where in the area you hope to study in
Research potential programs • Do your homework – find out about the programs, requirements, the faculty • Look at what sorts of theses have been completed in the program you’re interested in: could you see what you’re interested in doing sitting in that list? • Contact potential supervisors: describe your interests and ask for advice on the suitability of the progam
Refine your program of study • Write your study plan as if you’re where you want to be. • Locate your research in the existing literature that frames your project – this might mean doing some additional research to ensure you’re up to date. • You are not chained to the research plan you outline in the program of study -- but it should show the ability to define and outline a realistic and coherent research plan. • Be aware that those reading your application may not share all of your specialized vocabulary. • Draft and redraft – ask for feedback.
Complete the application process • Know all the deadlines! • Identify potential references early in the process, ensure that you have provided them with all the necessary documentation, and follow up with them • Ensure that you have read and followed the instructions in the application meticulously – include/address everything that you are asked to and only what you’re asked to • Proofread, proofread and proofread again
Getting a good reference • Your references can make the difference between being one of the pack and the one that stands out • Be honest with your references about what you hope they can address in their letters in terms of strengths and weaknesses, as well as other things not apparent from your transcript • Make sure you have provided them with enough substantive material to equip them to write a substantive letter of reference • Ensure that the dossier you provide to your references is available well in advance of the deadline