Graduate and Professional Schools

Applying to Graduate and Professional Schools

Applying for graduate and professional school can often feel a little overwhelming. This process includes applications, essays, interviews, exams, and financial aid questions. Your faculty along with staff from the Center for Personal and Professional Development are here to guide you as you navigate this process.

The application process should begin during your junior year continuing through your senior year. Click through the following slides to learn more about the application process.

Junior Year: Fall

  • Scan the landscape: Use school websites to research programs of interest.
  • Seek insight: Consult with faculty, advisers and other students about programs that interest you.
  • Shop around: Attend GWU’s graduate school fair to meet with admissions reps and plan campus visits to your top choices.

Junior Year: Spring

  • Review application process: Make note of all items and due dates for each program of interest (deadlines, requirements, procedures, etc.)
  • Investigate financial aid options: Schools offer a variety of institutional aid including grants, loans, fellowships, and assistantships. Find out what’s available for your intended program, and get familiar with the application process.
  • Prepare for tests: Determine what test(s) you will need to take for your intended program. Make sure to register by the deadline, and begin preparing.

Junior Year: Summer

  • Take required test(s): Be aware of deadlines and score requirements to ensure you meet expectations.
  • Collect forms: Obtain application forms and financial aid applications to begin preparing them early in fall. If applying online, print the application form first to make notes and ensure you have complete information available for when you are ready to submit the application online.
  • Investigate target schools: Visit or speak with the admissions staff, current students, and faculty at your program of interest. Be sure to research faculty research interests.
  • Draft essays: Begin drafting them now so you have time to get feedback from your faculty before you submit.
  • Conduct detailed research: Find out about financial aid, scholarships, fellowships or research assistantships.
  • Field experience: Most graduate schools look for well-rounded individuals with relevant work experience on their resumes. Internships, research, study abroad, and volunteer work can provide this experience in lieu of paid positions.

Senior Year: Fall

  • Register for testing if needed: Some exams offer multiple test dates in the fall allowing you to retake your exams if necessary. If you weren’t happy with your scores or decided to give yourself more time to prepare, you may be able to take some entrance exams in the fall.
  • Line up references: Obtain additional letters of recommendation as needed and provide references with the information needed to write a complete recommendation.
  • Application: Complete and submit your application.
  • Apply for financial aid: Complete your online FAFSA, which opens in October. Talk with your admissions counselor about the additional aid you have previously researched, and apply for these per their guidance.
  • Submit required items:
    • Test scores: You must request that your score reports are sent to your schools of choice.
    • Transcript: Official transcripts must be sent through the registrar’s office. Confirm with your school if they would like a digital or paper copy.
    • Letters of recommendation: Submit requests to faculty at least one month in advance of application deadline
    • Additional items: Each school requires unique items for their application. Make sure you submit all required items.

Senior Year: Spring

  • Track admissions decisions: Follow up to check on the status of your application. Visit institutions of interest. Evaluate your options and interview if necessary or desired.
  • Make a decision: Compare your offers to see which is best for your goals. Consider the program, location, finances, etc.
  • Share your decision: Once you have accepted the offer from your desired institution, notify other institutions that you are no longer interested.
  • Send thank you notes: Include those who wrote recommendation letters, and inform them of your plan.
  • Research housing options: Can you afford to live alone or will you need to find a roommate? Does the school offer assistance with housing or pairing graduate students as roommates? Is campus housing available, or will you live off campus?
  • Celebrate! Share your good news with GWU, family and friends so we can celebrate with you. Keep us informed of your progress as a proud GWU alumni.

Know What is Required

  • Some programs require specific undergraduate courses be completed prior to entrance into the graduate program.
  • Grade requirements differ depending on the program.
    • A grade of C is the lowest most will accept.
    • You should strive for a A/B, or consider retaking the class.
    • Check each schools’ policy for overriding first grades.
  • Check directly with the institution if you have specific questions about course credit.
    • You may need to supply a course description from the catalog of the school where the course was taken.
  • Whenever possible, take courses relevant to your graduate study interest.

Letters of Recommendation

  • There are different formats for letters of recommendation. These can be a letter or a form, depending on institutional preferences.
  • Check the type of references require
    • Are they requesting, professional, personal and/or character references?
    • Usually at least one will need to be from a professor in the area of study you are applying for.
    • Make sure this person can represent you well. Speak with them to share specifics if needed.
  • Request these well in advance of the application deadline.
    • As a courtesy, ask at least one month in advance via email, phone call, or in person.
  • Provide them will all materials needed to complete the recommendation.
    • Tell them the “Who, What, When, Where, and Why.”
    • Provide deadlines for submitting the recommendations and directions if needed.
    • Detail the items they are required to cover and in what format.
    • Tell them how it should be returned. If they need to mail it provide them with an addressed envelope and a stamp.
  • Confirm how the recommendations should be submitted to the institution
    • Sealed envelope? Does the recommender mail them in? Do all applications components need to be mailed together? Is the recommendation completed online.
  • Tip: Provide a resume or CV to help the recommender in writing the reference. Remind them how awesome you are!

Graduate Resumes or Curriculum Vita (CV)

  • Resumes provide an opportunity to demonstrate well-rounded skills sets and experience.
    • Some institutions will request these, list them as optional, or not require.
  • Design them with an academically focus.
    • Provide more detail about academic experiences such as conferences, presentations, research, and involvement.
    • This is another example of your writing ability, so have it proofread and critiqued.
  • Customize it to the field of study and the graduate institution you are applying to.
    • Reflect the mission/vision of the program.
    • Utilize skills and examples of contributions or accomplishments to attract readers.

Entrance Exams

  • Entrance exam(s) required may differ by program and/or institution.
    • Some institutions will waive test requirements for GPA’s meeting a certain level or with a certain number of years of professional experience.
  • The most common test is the GRE. Some programs may require a GRE subjects test as well.
  • Prepare well in advance for these.
    • You may need to take it more that once, so prepare with your timeline in mind.
    • Access online test prep resources, campus workshops, and practice tests.
    • Review information available on the test website.
    • Most tests are computer based.
  • Prepare Financially
    • Tests are expensive so save money by preparing thoroughly to avoid having to pay to retake tests multiple times in hopes of a higher grade.
    • Have scores sent automatically to your institution(s) of choice to avoid having to pay again for this later.
    • Keep a copy of your results once you receive them.
    • Scores are often good for five years.
  • GRE and MAT: General Tests
  • GMAT: MBA Programs
  • LSAT: Law Schools
  • MCAT: Medical Schools