Graduate School

Grad School as a Future Option

By Tyler “Blue” Tarpalechee, Muscogee Creek

So you’ve examined the postgrad paths in your field, and after some research, have settled on a few graduate programs to apply to. Now what? Here are a few things to consider as you set out on submitting your applications – from a Native student who has already been there.

Paper applications are gone, but online applications still take time. You’ll want to log in at least a month early to check it out. These online submission forms require you to upload documents and send email notifications to your recommenders, so it will be key that you start the application with plenty of time to collect everything.

When it comes to letters of recommendation, you’re only looking for strong endorsements, so have an honest conversation with the faculty you approach. Faculty are busy and get asked to write many letters. Give them six to eight weeks’ notice. Send them a résumé and a draft of your personal statement in an email that includes your deadline and, most importantly, the name of the program and school you’re applying to. Nothing will get your application put aside quicker than a letter praising your perfect fit for another school. It is okay to send courteous reminders to your faculty if they haven’t submitted your recommendation at four and two weeks prior to the deadline.

The personal statement is your opportunity to exhibit your personality and goals. At the graduate level, your statement is less about what you’ve always dreamed of doing and instead should describe the steps you’ve taken, and plan to take, to achieve your goals. Show – don’t tell. Highlight relevant experience that will help the readers get a clear picture of your abilities. If you have weak areas in your application, use this opportunity to address them. Did you have a poor semester and your GPA never fully recovered? Did you score low on the GRE? Include a line about your struggle and demonstrate that you’ve learned from it. The personal statement shouldn’t be a two-page biography. A tight opening paragraph or two that includes biographical information is sufficient. Absolutely include your connection to your culture! This is where your commitment to your community can set you apart.

The GRE can seem like a monster but try not to stress about it. Most universities know the GRE doesn’t accurately reflect the abilities of students and many schools are doing away with it as a requirement altogether – yet you will probably still have to take it. If you’re reading this and haven’t signed up, do so today. Pick a date about three months out if your application deadline can accommodate it. Utilize online study resources and any app that can give you small daily doses of test material.

There are whole books published on graduate school applications, so there’s more out there if you’re looking for something specific.

If you have any questions reach out to me on Twitter @BlueTheCreek. I’m more than happy to help

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