The best preparation that you can do comes long before it is time for you to actually apply.
The Sooner the Better
-- Excel in
your course work, get to know your professors (good letters of
recommendation are a must!), and above all, research, research,
-- Start looking at schools early so you can narrow your choices. Many schools even have Web sites that you can access.
-- Look for specific
faculty members with whom you would like to work. If no one has the same
research interests as you, you are probably not right for that program.
-- Call or visit before interview day. Really get to know your top choices.
-- Know what you're getting into: What kind of program is it
(research oriented, etc.)? What is expected of you?
-- Make your letter of
intent specific (e.g., make sure it is clear what area of research
interests you and why, and what some of the research questions you would
like to pursue in that area are).
-- Give your professors plenty of
time, let them read your letters of intent, and help with any editing
that may need to be done.
-- Make sure you submit the specific information that each particular school requests; all applications are not created equal.
-- Have specific questions prepared for the interview (e.g., things you want to ask them about their program).
-- Talk to current students in the program.
Don't assume that everyone you talk to during the interview has
thoroughly read your application. Make sure they know why you would be
an asset to their program, but don't be overbearing.
-- Talk to the
professors; try to get a feeling for how the faculty members get along.
If your major professor is at war with another professor, you can get
stuck in the middle. Ask the professors, then ask the students to make
sure facts are accurately presented!
If Problems Arise
-- Be persistent, but always polite.
-- Always be nice to the secretaries; they don't make the decision but they do take the messages!
-- If you have the luxury of being accepted at more than one place, weigh your options carefully.
-- Congratulate yourself, you have definitely earned it!
[This article was presented by Carla Strassle,
graduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as part of a
Psi Chi Panel Discussion titled "Applying to Graduate School:
Maximizing Your Chances for Success" (Peter Giordano, chair) at the 43rd
Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, Atlanta,
GA, April 5, 1997.]