After writing a short list of several graduate schools where you intend to apply, be sure to make note of the application deadlines for each program. Often, graduate schools use a process called rolling admissions. Under this system, applications are accepted continually and acceptance decisions are made one at a time, as each application is received. In this case, it is highly recommended that you submit your complete application packet as early as possible. The competition only increases as more students apply to the program and fewer seats are available. For graduate programs using a standard application deadline system, you may apply at any time until the deadline. At that point, all applications are reviewed together and acceptance decisions are made.
When beginning the application process, carefully read each program's material to make sure you file a complete and timely application. Application deadlines can range from the August before your senior year to a few weeks before graduate school matriculation. Generally speaking, many program deadlines occur during January, February or March of your senior year, however, it is very important that you are aware of the specific deadline for each program where you intend to apply.
While graduate programs may vary slightly in their admissions requirements, generally speaking there are several items you can expect to submit for almost any program.
The application form
Entrance exam scores
Letters of recommendation
Samples of work or research (for certain fields only)
It is likely that you will complete most, if not all, of your graduate school application forms online. Be careful to accurately answer all questions and avoid spelling or typing errors. It is also important to note that the majority of graduate programs charge an application fee, which can range anywhere from $30 to well over $100.
Graduate schools will require official transcripts from every institution of higher education you have attended. This includes dual enrollment, summer classes and of course, Rollins. Visit the Rollins College Office of Student Records to request your transcript be mailed. Your transcript will be mailed within five business days for a charge of $5 per transcript. Rush orders may be possible for an increased rate.
Graduate and professional schools usually require a specific admissions test as part of the application packet. The tests taken most frequently by Rollins students include the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT and DAT.
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required by most institutions for admission into graduate programs. The GRE General Test measures critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning skills. The Subject Test of the GRE is designed to measure knowledge of basic subject matter in a specific discipline. Subject tests are available in the areas of: biochemistry, cell and molecular biology; biology; chemistry; computer science; literature in English; mathematics; physics; and psychology. A graduate program will indicate whether you are to take the General Test and/or the more specific Subject Test for your field.
The GRE General Test is computer-based and offered at testing centers all over the country most days of any month, excluding Sundays. Appointments can be made online, by phone or by mail and are scheduled on a first-come basis. The Subject Tests are currently offered three times per year in a paper-based format. Because the Subject Tests are only offered three times per year, it is critical that you register in time for the test date which best suits your needs and meets your graduate program deadlines. The computer-based GRE consists of two 30-minute verbal sections, two 35-minute quantitative sections, and two analytical writing tasks: a 30-minute issue task and a 30-minute argument task. In addition, two unidentified sections that do not count towards your score may be included as a means of evaluating questions for future tests. You should plan to be at the test center for up to 4 1/2 hours to allow plenty of time for instructions and testing.
At the end of the test, you can choose to "cancel scores" (you will not see your score prior to this decision) or "view scores" (your unofficial score will appear on the screen immediately). If you cancel your scores, they will be permanently deleted--you cannot see them or retrieve them later. If you view your scores, they will be recorded permanently on the ETS database. You may choose to send your scores to institutions of your choice, or send them only to yourself.
Both the Verbal and the Quantitative sections of the GRE Revised General Test are scored on a scale of 130 to 170, in one-point increments. Each of the Analytical Writing essays is scored on a scale of zero to six, in half-point increments; only one score will be recorded for both essays. According to Educational Testing Service, examinees that repeated the General Test found a slight score gain. If you retake the test, you should note that all scores recorded in the previous five years will be reported to institutions that you designate to receive your scores. Thus, it is highly recommended that you prepare for the test and take it one time only.
For more information concerning the GRE, download this informational handout or visit the GRE web site at www.gre.org. In addition to the study materials you'll receive when you register for the GRE, Rollins offers a GRE Review Course through the Crummer Graduate School of Business. This class meets for a total of four sessions. Similar review courses are conducted through The Princeton Review or Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions; both organizations offer a variety of test preparation tutoring options. The Princeton Review offers free boot camps both for the verbal and the math components of the GRE. Additionally, Web sites such as My GRE Tutor and Test Prep Review offer free online practice tests, sample questions, study tips, and more to help you prepare. Finally, for information on the newly revised GRE being introduced Fall 2011, please visit ets.org.
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is required for admission into most management/business programs. It is divided into three sections and measures verbal and quantitative skills as well as analytical writing abilities. Prior knowledge of business is not required. The analytical writing section contains two writing tasks, each 30 minutes in length. The quantitative section is 75 minutes and contains 37 multiple-choice questions while the verbal section is also 75 minutes, but contains 41 questions.
The Graduate Management Admission Council recommends the following strategies in taking the GMAT. Before taking the test, become familiar with the test structure and questions by reviewing sample tests available in the GMAT bulletin and various preparation manuals. Your test will be scored by awarding one point for each question answered correctly and zero points for questions not answered. You will lose one-fourth of a point for every wrong answer; therefore, if you do not have a "good guess," it may be wise to skip the question.
When you receive your score report, you will have four scores: verbal, quantitative, total, and writing. The score for verbal and quantitative range from 0 to 60 (scores below 9 and above 44 for the Verbal section, or below 7 and above 50 for the Quantitative section, are uncommon). Your GMAT total score will range from 200 - 800, however extreme scores are rare (below 250 or above 700). You will also receive a separate score ranging from 0-6 for your analytical writing assessment. If you find it necessary to repeat the test, you should know that your scores from your immediate test as well as any previous tests from the last 5 years will be reported to the institutions you designate.
To learn more about the GMAT and planning for an MBA, visit the Graduate Management Admission Council's page at www.mba.com. You will be able to register for a test date, search accredited business schools, and review information on available preparation materials. For a quick summary of the GMAT and some helpful study tips, download this informational handout from Career Services. A variety of classes and tutoring resources are available from the Crummer Graduate School of Business, The Princeton Review, Knewton, and Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions to assist you in studying for the exam.
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) assists law schools in assessing the academic promise of applicants. The LSAT consists of five, 35 minute sections including: one reading comprehension section, one analytical reasoning section, two logistical reasoning sections, and one section of new test items that will not contribute to your score. A 35-minute writing sample is given at the end of the test; although this writing sample is not scored, it is made available to law schools to which you have applied. Your score is based on the number of questions answered correctly and no points are deducted for incorrect answers.
Your score, ranging from 120 - 180, will be e-mailed to you approximately three to four weeks after the test. The Law School Admission Council suggests retaking the test only if you feel that your score is not indicative of your abilities. Most test takers do not see a dramatic change in score when repeating the exam. All of your test scores will be reported to the institutions to which you are applying.
For more information about the LSAT download this informational handout or visit the Law School Admission Council at www.lsac.org. Information concerning LSAT dates, deadlines, and fees, as well as information about Law School Forums and publications is available at your fingertips. Rollins undergraduate students who are interested in applying for graduate law programs will also find helpful information on the Rollins Pre-Law Advising Web Site.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is an objective measure of concepts in biology, chemistry (general and organic), and physics; scientific problem-solving and critical thinking; and writing skills. If you are considering medical school, you should plan to take the MCAT about 18 months before you plan to enter a program. The overall length of the computer-based test is four and one-half hours, but plan to be at the testing center for close to six hours to allow time for preparation and breaks.
To prepare for the MCAT, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recommends that you:
• Obtain a copy of The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam
• Review and study the online resource, Preparing for the MCAT FAQ's.
• Review your course outlines and textbooks from related science classes.
• Practice taking the test by working through the samples provided online (one sample test is free, after which a $35 charge is assessed for additional tests).
Your raw score on the MCAT will be "scaled" ranging from a low of one to a high of 15 for each multiple choice section. The writing sample will be scored and converted to an alphabetic scale ranging from J (lowest) to T (highest). The range of acceptable scores will vary among medical schools. A recent study indicated that medical schools considered a score of 7 (on average) to be the lowest acceptable score; the average response for an exemplary score was 11. According to the AAMC, approximately 30% of medical schools use the writing sample essays in their decision-making process. Some institutions will review the information at various stages of the evaluation process.
You may take the MCAT as many times as necessary. All of your scores will be reported to potential medical schools. Most medical admissions committees will look at all test scores in evaluating your candidacy. For more information on the MCAT download this informational handout or visit http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/. Rollins students who are interested in applying for graduate programs in any of the health related fields can find more information on the Rollins Pre-Health Professions Advising Web Site.
The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a computer-based exam administered year-round in the United States and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. The test consists of 280 multiple-choice items distributed across a battery of four tests: the Survey of the Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability Test, Reading Comprehension Test, and Quantitative Reasoning Test.
The Survey of the Natural Sciences (90 minutes) consists of Biology (40 items), General Chemistry (30 items), and Organic Chemistry (30 items) for a total of 100 items.
The Perceptual Ability Test (60 minutes) is comprised of six subtests: apertures, orthographic projections, angle discriminations, paper folding items, cube-counting items, and spatial form development items. Each subtest has 15 items for a total of 90 items. (Optional 15 minute break)
The Reading Comprehension Test (60 minutes) consists of 50 test items distributed across three reading passages.
The Quantitative Reasoning Test (45 minutes) consists of 40 test items, 10 of which are word problems and 30 are computation problems.
Test scores range from 1 - 30; 17 is considered the average national performance. The best preparation for the DAT is "years of academic preparation" according to the American Dental Association. However, you are encouraged to review sample test questions, available in the application, to familiarize yourself with testing format and procedures. Candidates may retake the test up to three times, but not more than once in any 90-day period. Your four most recent test scores will be sent to selected dental schools, thus retaking the test may or may not be to your advantage. For additional information download this informational handout or check out http://www.ada.org/dat.aspx
- OTHER GRADUATE EXAMS
Depending on your planned field of study, you may need to take one of these tests or other tests related to your intended discipline: Optometry College Admission Test, Veterinary College Admission Test, Pharmacy College Admission Test, or the Miller’s Analogies Test (sometimes acceptable in place of the GRE). The PRAXIS Series (formerly the National Teacher Examination) is a professional assessment for beginning teachers. It is not a graduate admissions test. PRAXIS I (Academic Skills Assessment) is administered in two formats: paper and pencil and computer-based. Teacher licensure also requires satisfactory completion of PRAXIS II (Subject Assessment).
You are strongly advised to take the appropriate test between your junior and senior years or at the beginning of your senior year. Do not put this task off as you may find it necessary to retake a test to improve your scores. Before retaking a test, be sure that you understand the manner in which your test scores will be interpreted by a given institution. Some universities will average the scores you earned on all tests and others may look at your best scores only. Most graduate admissions test scores are considered valid for five years.
Most graduate schools will request two or three letters of recommendation. Recommendations from faculty are essential for academically oriented programs. Professional programs, such as business, law, and medicine, may request letters from professionals in their respective fields. Often, it is a good idea to request letters from individuals who know you in a variety of different capacities.
When selecting people to write recommendations on your behalf, be sure to consider those who have seen you perform in an academic or professional role. Recommendations from family members or friends of the family usually carry very little weight unless that person is an active alumnus serving on a university-wide committee or board. The title or level of prestige of the recommender is usually disregarded by the admissions committee, thus you want to select recommenders who know you well and can speak highly of your abilities, rather than those whom you feel have impressive roles, but may not be able to attest to your skills.
To request a recommendation letter, you should schedule an appointment with the prospective reference writer to discuss your goals and plans. You should provide each person with your resume or a summary sheet of your accomplishments. After discussing your graduate school plans, you should then ask the person if he/she is willing to write a letter on your behalf. Remember, faculty get very busy during the end of each semester, so do not wait until the last minute to approach them. If the person agrees to write a recommendation, give him/her a recommendation form from your graduate school application packet or ask that the letter be written on the College's letterhead. Be sure to check that your recommenders can complete their letters within your desired timeframe. If your application materials are due on March 1st, you may want to ask recommenders whether they can write a letter for you by February 15th. This allows you two weeks of leeway, in case a letter is forgotten or incomplete.
You should provide your recommendation writers with an addressed, stamped envelope if you would like for them to mail the letter directly to a graduate program. If the letter is non-confidential, you may also request that the writer provide you with a copy of the letter for your personal file. Be sure to follow any specific directions provided by the graduate program and the wishes of your recommenders. Some faculty may choose to keep their letters confidential. This is not a sign of a negative letter, simply a personal choice by the recommender.
If asked by the graduate program whether you wish to waive your right to view letters of recommendation submitted on your behalf, it is suggested that you DO waive this right. While there is no specific harm either way, waiving your right demonstrates your trust in your writers and your confidence that you have received positive, supportive letters. Refusing to waive this right may set off a red flag for the admissions committee, who might wonder why you have insisted on reading your letters.
Writing an essay or personal statement is often the most difficult part of the application process. Requirements vary widely in this regard, but overall, the Admission committee wants to read about you, your goals and your interests. While there is no set formula to follow, most successful statements will demonstrate a clear interest in and understanding of, your chosen field. Your essay should not only reflect well-developed writing skills, but it should also reflect clarity, focus, and depth of thought.
Admissions committees may try to evaluate a number of factors from your statement, including:
motivation and commitment to a field of study
expectations with regard to the program and planned career intentions
major areas of interest
research interests and/or relevant work experience
immediate and long term goals
reasons for deciding to pursue graduate education in a particular field and at a particular institution
personal uniqueness - what would you add to the diversity of the entering class
How long is a personal statement?
Sometimes, the graduate program will provide specific instructions regarding the length of your statement. Often, however, there will be little or no direction provided, simply a request for a statement. In these cases, a general rule of thumb you might follow is to submit a 2-3 page statement, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins, in 12-pt. Times New Roman font. While there are no set rules about length or format, this is typically considered appropriate and sufficient.
What should I write about?
A personal statement is your opportunity to tell the Admissions committee about YOU. In general, the personal statement should include an interesting story about you, your reasons for wanting to attend graduate school in this field of study, why you want to attend that particular institution, your future career goals and any relevant research or work experience. Many times, the personal statement is what really helps one candidate stand out from all the others. Unless directed otherwise in the statement instructions, your essay should NOT discuss weaknesses or deficiencies. The statement is your time to shine; problems may be addressed separately, in a brief addendum. (The addendum, if necessary, is a separate page where you may briefly explain any information in your application that may reflect poorly on you, such as poor grades or a low admission test score. Be sure to avoid long, tedious excuses and keep the addendum short, to the point, and as positive as possible.) Although expectations vary greatly, particularly across different fields of study, this document describes several of the most common personal statement prompts found on graduate school applications.
Can I submit the same statement to each of the programs where I apply?
In a word, "No." While your statement will certainly have much in common from one program to another, each version should be slightly different. Pay careful attention to the writing prompt and any length instructions provided on the application. Whereas one program may ask you to describe your relevant coursework, another program might prefer to find that information on your transcript. In addition to differences such as these, your statement should specify why you want to attend that specific institution. These reasons might be for certain classes or specialties that are offered, for the change to work with an admired faculty, or some other motivating factor. Obviously, this will require you to submit a different essay to each program.
Who at Rollins can help me with my personal statement?
Your advisor, a career counselor, or those who wrote recommendation letters for you may be very helpful in critiquing your writing. The Office of Career Services can provide guidance in many areas and, after reviewing your statement, will offer suggestions for improvement in content, organization and writing style. You may also want to seek the advice and counsel of people in your chosen field; as they may have specific knowledge about programs in that area. For assistance with grammar, spelling, sentence structure and other elements of the writing process, you can ask for a tutor from TJ's to proofread your work. Do not be surprised, however, if you get differing opinions and recommendations for your essay. In the end, only you can decide the best way of presenting yourself.
Click here to view online sample essays from EssayEdge.com. Visit Gradvocates.com to read short articles on brainstorming statement ideas, overcoming writer's block and when to submit an addendum essay.
Although not all programs require interviews, the on-campus visit can help you strengthen your candidacy. In addition, the campus interview will provide you with a better understanding of the program and help you assess your interest in the university. An interview can be extremely beneficial in your decision-making process. If the university does not require an interview, you should request one. Keep in mind that some schools will interview only selected candidates; if this is the case, you should arrange a "campus visit" during which you can tour the campus, evaluate the facilities, and talk with faculty and students.
Prepare for graduate school interviews as you would for an employment interview. Research the programs; polish your interviewing skills; and be prepared to discuss your strengths, weaknesses, goals, and educational achievements. Be sure that you are familiar with the faculty’s research and publications. When interviewing with faculty, discuss how your interests, goals, and skills are compatible with the program.
Thorough research and on-campus interviews may seem costly in terms of time and money, however, your decision to attend graduate school is an important one that should not be taken lightly. You will be investing more money into your education and foregoing several years of income if you choose to attend a graduate program. Compare the cost of campus visits to this investment and you will soon realize that it is a small price to pay for a decision that will have lasting influence on your professional and personal life.
Interview tips to remember:
Interview early in the semester. Arrange interviews or campus visits early in your senior year, this strategy will help you to evaluate and perhaps redefine your interests. (If you are interested in medical school, you may want to visit the campus during your junior year.) To arrange an interview, write a letter to the director of the program expressing your interest in the program. In your letter, state that you have plans to be in the area during a defined period of time and would appreciate the opportunity to meet and discuss the program. You should follow-up with a phone call approximately two weeks after mailing your letter to inquire about the professor’s availability and, if agreeable, to confirm a campus visit.
Prepare for the interview. Spend an adequate amount of time researching the university, the field of study, and the departmental faculty. Read published articles from the faculty to develop an understanding of their research and the focus of the program. Be prepared to answer standard questions. Prepare to discuss your interests, specifically demonstrating how the program will help you meet your academic and professional goals. You should also be prepared to discuss the strengths that you would bring to the program, citing examples of your own research, independent study, and experiences. It is also appropriate to inquire about scholarships or assistantships during your visit.
During your visit, try to arrange a meeting with current graduate students. In talking with the students, inquire as to their satisfaction with the program. Ask about the academic challenges of the program and availability of the faculty outside of the classroom. Try to assess the overall student perception of the program.
Always follow-up with thank-you letters. Following the interview or campus visit, be sure to write a letter to the department chair and other faculty with whom you met expressing your continued interest in their program. Also, be sure to state your appreciation of their time.
Tell me about yourself.
Why did you choose your academic major?
How would you describe the academic climate at Rollins?
What are your short and long term career goals?
Why are you interested in this field of study?
What is your GPA? Is it reflective of your abilities?
What contributions do you expect to make to this profession?
What subjects did you enjoy most in college? The least? Why?
Why did you choose to apply to this institution?
What activities, aside from classroom studies, have you participated in?
What are your strengths? Your weaknesses?
What have you accomplished in the past that demonstrates your interests and commitment to this profession?
What traits or characteristics do you think are important for success in this field?
What research is currently being conducted in this department?
Are there opportunities for students to participate in research?
What are the strengths of this program? What makes it unique?
How would you describe the faculty-student relationship in this department?
How flexible is the program? Would I be able to design my own program?
How long has this program existed at the university?
Would you describe the facilities: (library, computer labs, etc.) available to students?
Are teaching and research assistantships available? If so, how are students selected? How many are available?
Are internships or other practical experiences a part of the curriculum?
What type of career assistance is provided to graduate students?
What types of positions do graduates of this program obtain?
Admissions committees will use several standards to evaluate your candidacy. Some programs have very competitive admissions requirements and may accept less than 20% of all applicants. The Peterson’s Guide to Graduate and Professional Programs lists the acceptance rates of most programs. Do not, however, let a low admission rate discourage you from applying to a program in which you have sincere interest. If the program has a low admission rate, consider applying to other programs of interest with higher acceptance rates in addition to those with more competitive rates.
Overall, most admissions committees will review your credentials using the following criteria:
graduate admissions test scores
level of involvement in research, extracurricular activities, and volunteer services
previous work experiences (especially for MBA programs)
quality of personal statement/essay
reputation of undergraduate institution
overall content of application
timeliness of application materials
strength of recommendation letters