Graduate and Profesional School Application Process
Although all graduate and professional schools will have slightly different application processes, there are some common elements to prepare for. Watch the video below for an overview, but research your particular programs for specifics.
- Consider volunteering, involvement in organizations, shadowing professionals, internships, part-time work experience, or research opportunities
- Create your résumé – develop it as your experience and academic career progresses
- Collect Letters of Recommendation as you network and work with professors, professionals and mentors.
- Open an interfolio.com account if appropriate for type of graduate/professional program (optional)
- Prepare and take appropriate standardized exams for admission into graduate or professional program (i.e. GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc.)
- Research application deadlines and required material for each program
A Guide to Academia: Getting into and Surviving Grad School, Postdocs, and a Research Job by Prosanta Chakrabarty
Basic application material
(check each program for specifics as not all will apply)
- On-line application form (either directly through the graduate program/university website or centralized application system such as LSAC and AMCAS)
- Application Essay
- Letters of recommendation
- Writing sample or porfolio (depends on program)
- Official transcripts from all higher education institution attended
- Official scores from standardized exams (i.e. GRE, GRE subject, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, etc.)
- Supplemental or optional application material (depends on program)
- Application fee(s)
- Apply for FAFSA and fellowships by appropriate deadlines
Personal Statements are required by professional school programs which train you for a particular profession, licensure or certification (law, medicine, business, social work, teaching, etc.). For details about content, format and other helpful hints, read Professional School Personal Statement .
Statements of Purpose/Intent are required by academic graduate programs – Master’s and doctoral/PhD programs which allow you to study a particular subject in depth but are not designed to prepare you for a specific career. To learn about the purpose, content and structure of these essays read Statement of Intent: Academic Master’s & PhD Programs .
Letters of recommendation are a vital part of professional and graduate school applications. Though the number and type required may vary by field, letters from instructors, professors and professionals in your field are commonly expected. Research your particular programs for specifics regarding the best possible recommendations.
Plan Ahead! It takes time for someone to get to know you well enough to write a strong letter of recommendation. Make an effort early on to get to know professors and professionals in your field who can write about your academic and professional strengths and accomplishments with detail and specificity. Ask one or two months beforehand so you don’t miss any deadlines.
- How can you get to know recommenders and ask for letters? Read Obtaining Letters of Recommendation .
- What makes a good letter? Review Writing Letters of Recommendation .
Ask your writers for letters when they know the most about you – right after you finish a class, at the end of an internship or job, etc. – so their letters can reflect in detail, your entire experience together. Writers can send your letters at the time you apply, but if you get to know a writer earlier, consider collecting letters before it’s time to apply.
The Career Services Center recommends Interfolio.com to collect, store and distribute your letters to professional and graduate schools. For a small fee, gather your letters over time and control when and where they’re sent. Writers also like it because they only have to write one letter – Interfolio duplicates and sends copies to as many schools as you request. Compatible with many* any graduate school application, Interfolio is available 24/7 and easy to use:
- At www.Interfolio.com, purchase a one, three or five year plan. Follow the simple instructions and video demos to get started right away.
- Ask your writers to send their letters to Interfolio through the mail or by easily uploading them online.
- At your convenience, log in to your account and have your letters sent directly to schools or application services.
*Some schools will accept letters from Interfolio. However, a few will require letters to be uploaded directly to their school/program’s website by the writer. Always check with your schools before submitting your letters. For programs where you apply through a centralized service such as LSAC and AMCAS, you should ask your recommenders to submit letters directly to the service.
You will need to provide official transcripts from all colleges and universities you’ve attended when you apply. Contact the Registrar’s Office at UCSD and other schools to request transcripts. A small fee is often required.
Note: Your UCSD Transcript is different from your TritonLink Academic History or Degree Audit. Request a copy for yourself.
Most graduate and professional schools require a standarized exam for admission. The most common exam is the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General test that is required by many academic programs (Masters and Doctoral degrees). There are 3 sections: verbal, quantitative, and analyitical writing. In addition, there are also GRE subject tests. Check with the program admissions policy to see whether a subject test is required.
MBA programs usually require the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Other tests are required in other fields such as the LSAT for law school, the MCAT for medical school, the DAT for dentistry school, the OAT for optometry school, CBEST for teaching.
Test prep resources
- Free GRE practice tests
- Free GRE prep material from ETS
- Free test prep apps for GRE, LSAT, and GMAT
- 3 inexpensive ways to study for the MCAT
- LSAT test prep resources
- GoGrad GRE and LSAT guidebooks
- UCSD Extension test prep courses for GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT
- Student Grant Program offers $500 voucher for current students
- San Diego State University test prep courses
- University of San Diego test prep courses
- Test prep companies
Academic programs may want examples of your scholarly writing. Depending on the program you’re applying for, your writing sample could include: a work of fiction, a poem, a screenplay, a newspaper article, an analytical or research paper, or a portion of your senior/honors thesis. It is essential that you submit your very best work. It is also important to turn in exactly what is requested and meet the page requirements. If your best paper is longer than the maximum length allowed, you will need to edit it down to meet the page limit.
Some graduate programs in visual art, writing and performance may require you to compile examples of your creative work into a portfolio that will be evaluated as part of your application. For some general guidance, read Prepare Your Portfolio.
Interviews allow schools to learn about your communication and interpersonal skills, motivation and maturity, and they give you the opportunity to learn more about the schools. Medical, health and professional psychology programs commonly require interviews. Some business programs and other graduate schools may occasionally require them. Follow the steps below to prepare. Many of the resources are health-specific, but can be used for any type of interview.
Learn what to expect at your interview and how to get ready.
- Read the Professional School Interview for an overview of the admissions interview process.
- Work your way, step-by-step, through the Interview Preparation Checklist .
- Review the interview feedback section of StudentDoctor.net to read other students' experience with their own recent interviews at specific schools of medicine (MD and DO), dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, podiatry, veterinary medicine, audiology and psychology (PsyD and PhD).
- Find out what to wear and other tips in the Interviewing section of the WSDM Career Communication Guide .
Develop your oral communication skills and get comfortable talking about your experiences and accomplishments.
- Review the Commonly Asked Questions for health professional schools and business schools. Think about how you would answer them. Practice out loud.
- Get a list of sample interview questions/tips and practice your interview with the online, webcam-based biginterview tool. (Log-in through Port Triton)
- Book an appointment at One Button Studio to practice your interviewing skills.
Some applications may ask you to provide a resume or curriculum vitae (CV) detailing your work and activities. A sample of an undergraduate CV can be found in A Guide to Academia: Getting into and Surviving Grad School, Postdocs, and a Research Job by Prosanta Chakrabarty.
For additional resources and guidance, learn how to Prepare Your Resume. For a critique of your resume, come to the Career Services Center for walk-in advising from 10am-3pm M-F during the academic year. Please note that there are some differences between a resume used for a job search and one for applying to graduate school. For the graduate school application, your resume can be longer than 1 page. For additional resources, go here.
For additional help with your professional & graduate school preparation and application, come into the Career Services Center or schedule an advising appointment with a Professional and Graduate School Advisor via Port Triton. Learn more about your Career Advisors and their specializations at the staff directory page.