Applying to Graduate School

Application and Fees

Most schools use an online application process. It is a good idea to print out the application and complete a practice copy first. Make sure that you keep a copy of each application you submit. Application fees will vary. Keep track of application deadlines. Most schools will not review at your application until it is complete, usually including:

  • Application form
  • Application fee
  • Official transcripts from all institutions attended
    Ursinus transcripts can be requested from the Registrar’s office. If you have taken any college-level courses at other institutions, make sure you send along those transcripts as well.

Test scores 

Standardized test scores are requested for most graduate programs. The most commonly used test is the Graduate Records Examination (GRE). Some programs ask for the general test only, while others require a subject test as well. You should ideally take the GRE (or other specified test) early enough so that you know your score by the time you compile your application. When scores are said to be optional, you should have them sent, rather than opting not to.
More information on the GRE

The registration fee for the GRE  is $185. It is a computer-based test with sections measuring Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. The test is offered throughout the year at test centers around the world.   Paper-based tests in subject areas are administered three times a year in October, November and April.  Test registration costs $150.

Other tests required for specific programs may include:
Miller Analogies Test (MAT)
Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for business school
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) for medical school.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for law school

Personal Statement

A personal statement is an essay whose purpose is to tell the admission committee who you are and what motivates you to pursue your course of study, at the same time you demonstrate your writing skills. This essay is a very important part of any application; make sure that you follow directions carefully, as different departments may ask you to comment on different aspects of your background or on your reasons for choosing their program. .

If you are unsure where to begin, brainstorm 8-10 reasons why you were inspired to pursue this degree. Try to write a paragraph or two about each. Which ones are you most passionate about? Try expanding on those and see where your ideas take you. Remember, a well-written statement takes time to craft. Do not expect to sit down and turn one out in an evening.

Additional Resources
Writing Personal Statements an  e-manual  by Joe Schall. The handbook provides students with detailed advice on writing personal essays.
Graduate Essays.
Purdue’s Online Writing Lab

You should allow plenty of time to craft this essay before you send it in. You should be prepared to do several drafts of your essay and share it with people whose judgment you trust. • Proofread carefully and make sure there are no mistakes. Your statement will likely be read by faculty members in your program. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Resume/Curriculum Vitae

A resume is synopsis of the most relevant educational, professional and extracurricular experiences you have to date. It is generally one page and is used for applications to positions in business, industry, government and non-profits. The main purpose of the resume is to help you get an interview. A polished resume is your chance to make a good first impression with potential employers.

A Curriculum Vita (CV) is a summary of your educational and academic backgrounds as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors and affiliations. There is no page limit and is usually used for graduate school and academic positions including faculty openings, assistantships, and internships; also grant, scholarship and fellowship applications

If a resume or CV is requested as part of your application materials, consult the Career Services Web page for guidelines.


Recommendations are intended to show a prospective graduate school what your previous professors, mentors and/or employers think of your work. If you are applying to graduate school upon completion of your undergraduate degree, many schools will request at least 2 academic recommendations. If you have been working for a while and have recently decided to go back to graduate school, contact your schools of interest to determine how many of your recommendations need to be from the academic community.

If you think you might go back to graduate school, but you want to take some time off of school, you might consider subscribing to Interfolio. Interfolio provides electronic delivery of credentials and can even maintain letters confidentially.

When you ask a prospective letter writer for a recommendation- do it in person. Make an appointment and bring your resume and personal statement with you. Talk with the writer and discuss your interest in the program you are applying to and provide a complete picture of who you are. A good letter of recommendation will let the school know not only about your scholarly aptitude, but your outside interests and character traits as well. When requesting a letter of recommendation, you always want to ask the prospective recommender if he/she feels as though he/she can speak positively about your work. If he/she cannot speak positively about your work, you do not want him/her writing your letter of recommendation

Provide plenty of time for your recommendations to be submitted. Remember that many admission deadlines are at the same time of year and you will likely not be the only person asking a professor for a letter of recommendation. At a minimum, you should provide the recommender with 1 month of lead time, although more is always better.

Traits that letter writers may want to comment on are those that are helpful to the admissions committee in deciding whether you have what it takes to succeed in their academic program: ability to work independently, ability to collaborate with others, written and verbal communication skills, intellectual ability, integrity, judgment, leadership, commitment to a particular career field, maturity, motivation, organizational skills, interpersonal skills, ability to receive criticism.

Lastly, you should always express thanks to those who have helped you along the way- particularly your recommendation letter writers. Make sure you let all of your letter writers know the outcome of your applications.

The Interview

Big Interview - Free online multimedia system to practice interviews at your own pace from your own room

Some graduate programs will require an interview. For additional assistance on interviewing, contact the staff in Career Services. Prepare to respond to the following questions often asked in graudate school interviews.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What factors influenced you to go to graduate school?
  • Why are you interested in our graduate program?
  • What skills and personal characteristics make you a good candidate for this graduate program?
  • What do you hope to gain from our graduate program?
  • How do you see this program fitting into your career goals?
  • What is your greatest strength? What is one of your weaknesses?
  • What are your goals for the next five years? 10 years?
  • How do you feel your undergraduate studies have prepared you for this program?
  • Describe your past work/volunteer experiences and how what you have learned from them will help you in graduate school.
  • Describe your past research experiences and how they will help you in graduate school.
  • What recent professional articles or books have you read?
  • What problems do you expect to face while attending graduate school? How will you handle these?
  • What contributions do you plan to make to the field?
  • What do you believe to be the major trends in your intended career field at this time?
  • What do you think about _________ (current event)?
  • What do you think is the most important development in the field over the past 25 years, and why?
  • We are looking at many other candidates for this graduate program; what sets you apart from the other candidates?
  • What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies or outside interests?
  • Tell me about a major accomplishment and how you achieved it.
  • Give an example of an ethical dilemma you faced and explain how you resolved it.
  • Tell me about a situation in which you took initiative.
  • Tell me about a time you assumed a leadership role.
  • Tell me how you handle stress.
  • Tell me about a time you had a number of assignments due. How did you make sure you completed all of them on time and did a good job?
  • Tell me about a time you were confronted by a fellow student, co-worker, or a customer. How did you handle it to resolve the conflict?