• 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.
  • Prepare and take appropriate standardized exams for admission into graduate or professional programs if required (e.g. GRE, LSAT, MCAT)
  • Research application deadlines and required material for each program

Basic application materials (check each program for specifics as not all will apply)

  • Online application form (either directly through the graduate program/university website or a centralized application system such as LSAC and AMCAS)
  • Application essay(s)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Writing sample or portfolio 
  • Official transcripts from all higher education institutions attended
  • Official scores from standardized exams if required (e.g. GRE, GRE subject, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT)
  • Interview
  • Resume or CV
  • Supplemental or optional application material 
  • Application fee(s)
  • FAFSA® Application | Federal Student Aid and fellowship applications

Application Essay

Get Started

Personal Statements are required by professional school programs that train you for a particular profession, licensure, or certification  (law, medicine, business, social work, teaching, etc.):

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:

Get Critiqued

Writing assistance is available through the Writing Hub ( (, and the Colleges.

For additional help with your professional & graduate school preparation and application come into the Career Center or contact your Career Coach on Handshake.

Letters of Recommendation

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.

Requesting Letters

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.

Collecting Letters

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. It is often helpful for letter writers if you can provide information for them to include such as a brief written summary of what you accomplished. You should also send them your CV and the personal statement.

Most 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 or once you are accepted. Most programs will accept unofficial transcripts while 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.

Standardized Exams

Some graduate and professional schools require a standardized exam for admission although this requirement is less common now. The most common exam is the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General test that is required by many academic programs. 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 and California Educator Credentialing Examinations ( for teaching.

Writing Sample or Portfolio

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. Be sure to carefully read and follow the guidelines provided by the program for your portfolio, and contact the program if you have any questions.


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. Professional psychology programs commonly require interviews and some business programs and other graduate schools may occasionally require them. To prepare for the interview, develop your oral communication skills and get comfortable talking about your experiences and accomplishments. Create a list of sample interview questions and practice answering them with Big Interview on Handshake.

Resume or curriculum vitae

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 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 help with your professional & graduate school preparation and application, come into the Career Center or schedule an advising appointment via Handshake. Learn more about your Career Coaches and their specializations at the staff directory page.