Admissions Advice: What I Wish I Had Known a Year Ago

This is the last week of fall semester classes at HGSE; the libraries are packed, coffee sales are up, and faculty and students are concentrating on the final projects that stand between them and the holiday break. As I attend final classes this week, I am struck by how much has changed in such a short time. A mere 12 months ago, I was knee-deep in the application process, unsure if I would get in and juggling the many pieces of the Ed.M. application.

Here are a few tidbits of advice that I wish I had known last year:

  • Applications are reviewed holistically

This means that all pieces of your application are important and there is no one part that is more important than others. I didn’t know this and wasted a lot of time worrying about my GRE scores. I took the GRE twice last fall and fell short of my target GRE math score both times. The second time I wrote the GRE was in early December so I knew I didn’t have time to take it again. I actually considered holding my application and waiting to apply because I was convinced that I wouldn’t get in with my math score. I wish I had funneled all the energy I wasted worrying into concentrating on other parts of my application like my recommendation letters and Statement of Purpose.

  • Reach out to your recommenders (today!)

I reached out to 3 recommenders in November and heard back from 2 right away. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from my 3rd recommender, even after a follow-up email. It turned out that he had a new email address and it took months to hear back from him…long after my grad school applications were due. I wish someone had told me a year ago: if you don’t hear back within a week (especially if time is getting tight), move on!

  • …and don’t forget to give your recommenders background information

I had an application savvy friend who encouraged me to put together background sheets for my recommenders—I’m not sure I would have thought of it without her advice. After recommenders confirmed they would be willing to write a letter for me, I sent them a PDF document that clearly outlined the different programs I was applying for, logistical information like due date and who to address each letter to, a link to the program, and a brief summary of my motivations for applying to each program. I also included an overview of some of the work that I had done for each recommender and some of the strengths I brought to each role. Providing background information is a way of respecting letter writers and getting a better outcome; you are showing them that you value their time and you care enough about your application to make sure it’s tailored for each school and program.

  • Finish a draft of your Statement of Purpose before the holidays

It’s so helpful to have family members and friends read your Statement of Purpose and give you feedback! And the holidays are a perfect time to solicit feedback and make final edits. Just remember to maintain your own authentic voice and perspective; don’t listen to any suggestions that don’t resonate with you. At the end of the day, the Statement of Purpose should be a genuine representation of your motivations and goals. 

 

As the application date approaches, I hope you will lean into the application process; don’t second-guess yourself or self-sabotage your application by procrastinating. This is an amazing opportunity to reflect on your reasons for applying to HGSE and present them in a heartfelt way.

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Written by Cecelia DeKorne
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Cecelia DeKorne is an Ed.M. candidate in the Human Development and Psychology program and is interested in how adult development principles can be used to improve organizational culture. Cecelia is loving her year at HGSE and has tried every type of cookie at The Commons! 

Cecelia is a Graduate Assistant at the HGSE Admissions office and will be posting throughout the 2017-2018 school year. 

 

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