Parts of an Graduate School Application

The application process is a long drawn out process, and there are many important parts that need to be carefully drafted.

Cover Letter

These letters should be crisp, clear and to the point. However, it may be a small text, but then it forms the most crucial part of your application form. This is a very good opportunity to describe yourself and drive home the point that you are a good fit. Also, it provides an opportunity to discuss about your background, about your qualifications, and explain in a very straightforward manner as to why you want to join this particular school. You can also seek help, and refer many sample cover letters which are available at The University of New Mexico and also at Harvard University.

Resume

This piece of information has the potential to tilt the scales in your favor. A resume is a written document about the good things that you have accomplished so far, as well as the traits that you do not have but you wish you had. Also, it should document your failures and it should be written in such a manner that they not appear as failures but as moments and incidents which have taught you and has moulded you for the future. So, in many ways a resume is all about covering your mistakes and highlighting your achievements in what may be seen as a fine balancing act.
Put yourself in the shoes of the applicant and then decide what it that they want, and accordingly project yourself is. This is the best opportunity to market yourself and hence every word that you put into your resume is important and should be analyzed. The whole purpose of the resume is to convey your leanings and aptitude and not about gloating about your past, however colorful it may be.
This is a type of advertisement to hard sell yourself, and should be very persuasive. Although at the end of it all it is a summary of your education, your professional career and your skills, it should be portrayed in such a manner that it projects you beautifully. And since we are comparing it to an advertisement, so like advertisements there should be linked benefits that come along with the product, which in this case is you. You are highlighting your importance citing your previous experiences in such a way that the applications committee is forced to sit up and take notice. Shun the notion that you need to be modest; this is a chance to flaunt what you possess. Make assertions and also back them, it will go a long way in establishing your image.

Hence, what you write initially, the way you start your resume is very critical and a strong opening will pave a way for the applications committee to go through the entire document.
In order to captivate the unknown audience, it is important that a known audience is captivated first. Hence, test the merit of your resume by consulting your friends and taking into account their view points.   

Types of Resumes
Chronological Resumes

This is one the standard resume types, and all the achievements are listed in a sequential manner. There is not much emphasis on skills, and hence this type of resume works best when you are applying for any academic purpose. However, its effectiveness for a graduate school is sketchy and not very positive.

  1. Functional Resumes
    Unlike chronological resumes, functional resumes allow you to list out your accomplishments and skills right at the beginning. You can also highlight how you can benefit the institution based on your previous skills and experiences.
  2. A resume which is an amalgamation of both
    This type allows you to highlight both your skills and accomplishments. The job descriptions will be much shorter and your skills will assume greater importance. However, bear in mind that you do not become too repetitive.

 

Design and page limits
The design of the resume should be such that it does not become a sore to the eyes. Proper balance of words and white space should be maintained. Also, different fonts should be used, but with uniformity. Use tables for formatting, and align your text using borders. Do not over do any style however.

Limit yourself to one page ideally, because even if it extends to more than one page, the screening committee will only read one page. Thus, it is better to be crisp and clear in only one page. 

 

LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

Getting a good recommendation is a focal aspect of the application process. The graduate committee is as much interested in your numbers as they are in your character. Hence, you should make sure that you receive a strong and positive letter of recommendation.

Proper planning should go into availing a good letter of recommendation. Get in touch with the professors, whom you view as people who may draft your letter. Interact with them and remind them if the need may be about your involvement with them. Clear thought, comprehensive contemplation and identifying your interests and weaknesses are the key requirements that should be focused on. Even if your resume is brilliant a weak Statement of Purpose will derail your chances of getting in considerably.

Since it is so important, picking a person is the most important point. So, the ideal person to write a letter of recommendation will be someone who is an academician or a leader in the field in which you have already decided to go ahead.

Always keep distance from people who are pretentious and try to know all yet do not possess any skill at all. A flawed statement of purpose is worse than having no statement at all.

So, the person who has spent the maximum time with you will know you better and hence will be in a better shape to write a proper and effective statement of purpose.

Ask the professors early to make sure they are not pre-occupied. Also, this will allow the professors more time to think out and draft a strong and effective statement of purpose. Also, this will allow you to submit the statement on time.
So how to develop a strong Recommendation:

A strong and surprising opening line that arrests the attention of the committee and hence they will want to read out the remaining letters.

Develop the story with lots of details and imagery. Play around with words and do not be repetitive since you have limited space. The incidents that you will mention should have credibility and emotions should be thrown in here and there.

Allow your actions to do the talking and then you will not have to write down everything. So mention all your activities in the past and let the committee draw their own conclusions.

The best way to end your letter is by summarizing and reminding them about your goals and how you fit into their scheme of things.