BEGINNING THE GRADUATE SCHOOL ADMISSIONS PROCESS
As you begin your inquiries regarding a particular counseling program, you will need to start communicating with the Graduate School. Start with investigating Graduate School requirements, then the counseling program requirements. You can typically find information regarding requirements from the Graduate School website, including admission requirements for both the Graduate School and the program. Look for a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on the website first before contacting anyone. If you are unable to locate information or answers to your questions, then contact the Graduate School staff. Your next step will be to contact the counseling program directly. The following checklist will give you a sense of information that you may want to gather from the Graduate School.
Graduate School Contact Checklist
- ? Applications you need to complete. You may find that you will need to complete applications for both the Graduate School and the counseling program.
- ? Graduate School and counseling program deadlines.
- ? Fees. Typically, only the Graduate School will require a fee with your application, which usually ranges from $25 to $100.
- ? Examinations(s) required. The majority of counseling programs, but not all of them, require a standardized test as part of their admissions requirements. Be sure to review the requirements for each program to determine the exam required. There are two examinations that programs often consider: the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), which measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills; or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), which consists only of analogies and is designed to measure analytical skills (see Box 7.1). The GRE is a multiple-choice exam that is designed to be a predictable measure of your success in graduate school. Counseling programs may require a minimum score to be considered for admission. However, some counseling programs do not have a "cutoff” score but only require that an exam score be submitted. Be sure to inquire about the submission format of your exam scores. To be considered "official,” your scores must be sent directly from the testing company. Programs may consider reviewing an unofficial score with the expectation that official scores have been requested. An unofficial score would be considered a copy of your results that were issued to you.
- ? Undergraduate GPA requirements. Most graduate programs require a minimum of 3.0 for master’s programs (possibly higher for doctoral programs). Inquire about the specific GPA requirement for the counseling program, which may be different from the Graduate School requirement.
- ? Letters of recommendation. You will find that most programs require a minimum of two letters from professionals who can attest to your potential as a graduate student and a future counselor. Counseling programs may require a letter of recommendation in one of the following: (a) a standardized form designed specifically for the program, (b) a traditional letter on business letterhead, (c) an electronic form, or (d) a combination of all discussed (Purdue Online Writing Lab, 2012). Consider asking former professors who can communicate your academic abilities and/or supervisors who can discuss your work ethic. Some programs may require at least one ofyour letters to be academic. It is not unreasonable for you to confirm the letters will be positive, although this could be a delicate matter requiring professionalism and tact. You should avoid personal friends and relatives. Remember, this is a professional endeavor, and your letters should reflect you as a professional. Be specific about the letter requirements to your recommenders, which should include content as well as submission requirements and due dates. Determine from the Graduate School and counseling program the options for submitting
GRE Study Material: http://www.studyguidezone.com/gretest.htm
MAT Study Material: http: //images.pearsonassessments.com/Images/dot- Com/milleranalogies /pdfs/TheMATStudyGuide.pdf
- (i.e., mail or electronic), and inform your recommenders. Consider providing a resume or vita as you make your request. If letters cannot be submitted electronically, provide addressed, stamped envelopes for your recommenders. Although somewhat presumptuous, you may want to offer to write some of the content of your letter due to the fact that writing recommendation letters can be labor-intensive.
- ? Personal statement/essay requirements.
- ? Transcripts (official or unofficial). An official transcript is sent directly from your undergraduate institution with an official seal. Some programs may be willing to review your application with an unofficial transcript, with the expectation that an official one will be provided at a later date.
- ? Any other required information. For example, many programs may require a resume or curriculum vita or a separate program application.
When all of the required information from the checklist has been submitted, your application will be "complete" In most systems, the Graduate School staff will share your materials with the program. Some counseling programs will not review your file until it is considered a complete application. Other programs will review your file with some of the materials being unofficial (e.g., exam scores, transcripts) or may review your file even with missing items (e.g., two out of three recommendation letters). Be sure to find out the policy of both the Graduate School and the counseling program. Once you have addressed the admission requirements, you should begin preparing for the next steps in the admissions process such as a possible interview conducted by the counseling program.
Checklist 2: Preparing to Apply
- ? Review the Graduate School catalog. The catalog will discuss policies of the Graduate School such as academic policies, tuition and expenses, financial aid, graduate assistantships, and student resources.
- ? Take a virtual tour. With advances in technology, graduate schools can provide potential students a virtual tour of the campus.
- ? Schedule a campus tour. It is less likely for potential graduate students to take tours than when high school students look at colleges. However, we encourage you to consider a campus tour arranged through the Graduate School or counseling program. This provides an opportunity to be informed about resources specifically for graduate students. Consider asking for the opportunity to meet directly with the counseling program professors, particularly the program chair, as well as current counseling students. This may be an opportunity for you to gain firsthand knowledge
- 1. What exactly happens when I am invited to the interview?
- • What kind of questions can I expect?
- • What does group work mean?
- • What is an overview of the day (i.e., the schedule given on interview day)?
- 2. What do I wear to the interview?
- 3. I know I need to apply to the Graduate School first. Do I just resend all the information to the counseling program?
- 4. If I take a course before being accepted to the program, does that increase my chances of being accepted (if I do well)?
- 5. What course would you recommend I take before being accepted into the program, if I choose to take one?
- 6. On average, how many people usually apply each semester?
- • Is there a maximum number of applicants you invite to the interview?
- • I know there may be a limit to the students admitted to the program. Is there a limit to how many students may take counseling classes?
- 7. Are all application materials (GRE score, letters of recommendation, CV, interview scores, etc.) given the same weight, or do you value one material more than others?
- 8. What personal characteristics do you look for in applicants?
- 9. Are professors easily accessible and willing to answer any questions I have? 10. Are graduate assistantships available in either the counseling program
or the university at large? If so, should I apply for a graduate assistant position when I apply for the program?
about the program and make a good first impression with faculty and staff in the counseling program. See Box 7.2 for a list ofsample questions (developed by current counseling students) that you might consider asking.
The final topic we want to address related to the admissions process is maintaining professional communication. Graduate School staff often work closely with counseling program faculty members and thus have the opportunity to share information about potential students. Ultimately, the evaluation ofyou as a potential student begins when you initiate contact with anyone at the college or university. Consider the following recommendations:
- • Be polite, courteous, and respectful.
- • Do not use "text” language in emails, which may use acronyms or lack appropriate grammar.
VOICES FROM THE FIELD: BEST PRACTICES FOR APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL
Start the application process at least 3 to 6 months prior to the application deadline. If applicable, take any required tests such as the GRE, GMAT, and MAT at least 6 months prior to the deadline. If you do not get the score you would like, then you will have enough time to retake the test. Begin to fill out the graduate application even if you do not have all of the necessary items ready to be submitted. Request that official copies of all of your transcripts from each school you have attended be submitted directly from that institution to the school to which you are applying. If you need letters of recommendation, then please make sure you have asked the recommenders in advance before sending a request to them when completing the application. Double check their email addresses, and follow up with them if the recommendation has not been completed at least 30 days before the application due date. Check your application status online (when possible) at least every two weeks to ensure that any items that were sent to the school have been received.
Arenette MAdmissions Coordinator Winthrop University Graduate School
- • Limit your emails or phone calls. Consider gathering all of your questions together first so that you are not contacting the staff excessively.
- • Before asking for information, be sure you have reviewed all the resources available to you to address your questions or concerns.