Graduate School Resources
Preparing for admission
Meet with a faculty member in your area of interest or a career coach to:
- Evaluate multiple programs and find the one that's right for you
- Determine prerequisites for your top grad or professional programs
- Get admission exam support - the BCI has exam prep materials
- Determine who should write your letters of recommendation
- Receive additional support in putting your application materials together
Important aspects of your application
Your GPA is an important measure of your work ethic and involvement in your coursework. You should strive for good grades, especially in your prerequisite courses, and look to maintain or even improve your grades each year.
Most graduate schools require an admission exam, with the most popular being the GRE. However, many professional schools require an exam specific to that discipline, such as the MCAT, LSAT, DAT, and GMAT, to name a few. These are not like the ACT or SAT and different schools will require different tests. If you plan to attend graduate school immediately following graduation, it typically makes sense to take your relevant exam by the end of your junior year. Be sure to check the deadlines for the programs you are considering though to determine the right timing for your specific circumstance. Also, you should consider giving yourself enough time to retake the test in case it becomes necessary.
The Berry Career Institute offers support in preparing to take the exam with study guides and study plan development.
To determine which exam you will need to take, identify your top schools of interest and check their website to learn of their entrance exam requirement.
Participating in an internship or research helps you put to practice what you have learned and makes you a more competitive applicant.
Pursuing service opportunities demonstrates leadership and a passion for helping others. Learn how you can get involved in service opportunities.
You should also keep a journal of your activities and engagements while at Cornell. This will serve to not only help you reflect on your experiences and why they are meaningful to you, but will also help you keep track of your hours and contacts - something you may need to refer back to on your application.
Get to know your professors, staff, and any previous supervisors who can speak to your work. Forge lasting relationships with them, enabling them to write strong letters of recommendation that speak to your qualifications specifically. Many graduate schools will expect you to have at least three letters of recommendation and require some of those be from faculty. Plan ahead to ensure you give your recommenders ample time to craft a letter. They are busy people and may not be able to say yes to your request if they haven't been given enough time.
Graduate and professional schools often require some sort of written statement as a part of the application. The terminology differs, but may include a general statement, often called a personal statement, or a prompt that asks you to respond to a specific question. Some applications call for one statement, while others require responses to a series of questions. Word and page limits are typically specified and vary greatly depending on the program. Oftentimes, the statement is your opportunity to stand out and allows you to round out your application when other application variables like your test score and GPA are set.
As you gather your thoughts and prepare to write, consider:
- What makes you unique or a stronger candidate than others?
- What moments or experiences influenced your goals?
- Why and how did you become interested in the field? What experiences solidified your interest (work, classes, extra-curriculars)?
- What are your career goals? Be as specific as possible.
- Are there any significant obstacles you have had to overcome?
- What are any special skills or characteristics you can highlight and prove with examples?
- How you will contribute to the program in a meaningful way?
- Do you have any shortfalls in your application you'd like to address? If so, don't make excuses. Rather, provide examples of why this may not be the best representation of your talents and abilities, how you or have overcome these shortfalls, and how you will contribute in the program.
When writing, don't forget to:
- Find out the requirements before you start writing
- Answer the prompt entirely
- Select a central idea and stick to it if it's a general statement
- Proofread and edit
Start early as it is common to write and revise several drafts. If you do not understand a specific essay prompt, seek help from a faculty member, the Writing Studio, or the Berry Career Institute. Answering the question at hand, being concise, and not repeating your ideas is critical to a strong essay/personal statement.
- Graduate school search resources:
- Test preparation resources:
- Faculty: If you are applying to graduate school in a specific field, it is advisable to speak to a faculty member in that area of expertise to understand how to best find a program that is right for you.
- The Writing Studio: As part of the Center for Teaching and Learning in Cole Library, they can help you in editing and revising your essay/personal statement.
- The Berry Career Institute: Once you've had the Writing Studio review your essay or personal statement, consider having a career coach in the BCI provide feedback as well.