Getting into grad school

Many VCU grads go on to pursue further graduate or professional studies. If you’re thinking about applying, begin the process early. While every program is different, it normally takes several months to apply to a graduate or professional program. Here are some ways you can make the process easier for yourself.

Plan ahead

Most applications can take anywhere from three months to a year, depending on the type of program. While some programs only require a school-specific application, others might include standardized tests, resume/CV, references, essay questions and an interview. By knowing the specific requirements, you can plan for all the appropriate steps you will need to take.

Ace the entrance exam

Once you decide on a program, take the appropriate standardized test for entrance. Many of these sites have practice exams you can take in advance to help increase your scores. Common exams include:

Perfect your personal statement

Some programs will ask you to write a personal statement related to your chosen field of study. You can meet with a career advisor to review your personal statement. Personal statements are usually categorized in one of the following ways:

A general personal statement
You’re free to write about the topic of your choice, but ensure that your topic connects to your qualifications and desire to attend graduate school in some way. This type of question is often found in law or medical school applications.

A response to a specific statement
You may be asked to respond to a specific question or statement. Your response should specifically answer the question or address the statement. Many business programs use this type of question.

Writing a personal statement

Personal Statement Worksheet

Personal statement rubric

Gather your references

Typically, programs will require letters of reference from academic and nonacademic individuals. You probably already know several people who can give you a great reference. They could be professors, supervisors or academic advisors.

Make sure that the person:

  • Knows you well enough to speak to your abilities
  • Knows your work
  • Is able to speak positively about you
  • Is able to write a letter properly

When asking for a recommendation:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to ask. Your reference may have several other letters to write.
  • Find out if the program you’re applying to requires a form, a letter or both. If a form is required, make sure that you find it and give it to your recommender.
  • Give the recommender time to write a proper letter.
  • Provide the recommender with everything they need to write a letter (e.g., forms, resumes or transcripts) at one time.
  • Always write a thank-you note to the recommender.

Prep for the interview

Competitive graduate and professional programs often include interviews. These could be a singular interview with a potential faculty advisor or multiple mini-interviews for health-related programs. It is important to practice for these interviews like you would any other. 

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Box 842007
Richmond, Virginia 23284-2007

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