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Grad School Series: Letters of Recommendation

18 Oct

As part of the application process, you’ll need to submit letters of recommendation. You can help your recommendation letter providers write effective and timely letters by following the guidelines below:

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  • Choose recommendation providers who can attest to your potential as a graduate student. Ask if they would be willing to write you a good recommendation letter.
  • Coach your recommendation providers. Try to select recommendation providers who can talk about various aspects of your potential and suggest to them what they could highlight. For example, a research advisor could talk about specific research skills while a professor could talk about your academic potential. This prevents you from having three generic recommendation letters. Most recommendation providers appreciate knowing what they should discuss in their letters.
  • Read any requirements for an acceptable recommendation provider. Most graduate programs expect at least two of your letters to come from faculty.
  • Make the process as easy as possible. Provide your recommendation providers with:
    • a copy of your resume or curriculum vitae
    • a file that lists all of the institutions, program names, contact information, and application deadlines to which you are applying
    • a list of details they will need to answer specific questions about you
    • a friendly reminder of approaching deadlines

Remember to send a thank you note to all of your recommendation letter providers!

Good luck!

Grad School Series: Statement of Purpose

11 Oct

Because your Statement of Purpose is an important part of your graduate school application, you will want to make sure it is well written. If you haven’t completed your Statement of Purpose yet, the following exercise will help you customize your Statement of Purpose by highlighting your relevant experience and focusing on why you wish to pursue a graduate degree.

Statement of Purpose22

Now is the perfect time to finish your first draft of your Statement of Purpose and bring it in for review at your college’s career office to get it prepared for submitting!

Please note that these are general guidelines applicable to most programs. You should always follow the specific instructions of the department you are applying to.

  1. First, list 2-3 qualities unique to your program of interest. Identify interdisciplinary opportunities and areas of specialization. What are the available academic, research and training facilities that will assist you in pursuing your degree?
  2. Next, name the faculty that interest you and briefly identify their research projects.
  3. Then, in 3-4 sentences, describe your research interests. Follow this by explaining how your professional goals can be achieved by pursuing your research interests in your program of choice.
  4. Mention the unique qualities and faculty members you identified in steps 1 and 2; show how they coincide with your interests.

    Enhance your statement by considering the following:

    • Have you had experience outside the classroom? If so, describe it in detail. Be sure to mention how it will help you in graduate school.
    • Do you have any challenges that you would like to explain to the Admissions Committee (e.g., poor grades in a given semester, a low standardized test score, etc.)? Don’t dwell on anything negative, but sum up the situation in a sentence or two and explain what you learned from it. Show how you have since improved or realized success.
    • Showcase your abilities. As a graduate student, what will you be able to contribute to your graduate program? Give evidence of your strong work ethic, mention jobs held or organizations supported while earning a high GPA. Give concrete examples. Be illustrative.
    • If providing a resume or curriculum vitae (CV), don’t hesitate to reference it, but do not restate all of its contents in your statement of purpose. For example you could say

      “As you’ll note in my enclosed CV, I have received several academic honors, which include the Young Investigator award at Institution X. Receiving this award was a shining moment for me as it served as recognition for long nights in the lab researching tomato viral stains.”

      After this sentence you should describe your research. Remember that you’re telling a story, not simply listing a multitude of facts.

Some additional quick tips:

  • Pay very close attention to the directions as they vary across institutions and programs.
  • Be unique. Talk about interesting and relevant experience. One way to do this is to talk about a subject in your field about which you are passionate.
  • Write with skill. The Statement of Purpose may be the only writing sample you provide, so editing and organization are imperative. Be sure that you proofread your statement and have others, such as professors, teaching assistants, advisors, and peers read it. Ask for constructive feedback as well.
  • Be clear and specific. Instead of providing broad generalizations such as “my research internship provided valuable experience,” write, “By transcribing interview protocols and coding the data, I gained a deeper understanding of how teenage mothers make attributions.”
  • Give yourself enough time to write the Statement of Purpose, to get feedback from a variety of people, and to make the necessary revisions.
  • Be yourself; avoid using too much jargon and too many big words that aren’t a part of your day-to-day vocabulary.

While writing the Statement of Purpose can be a daunting task, engaging in this exercise can help you identify the most important elements you will want to include. Please note, however, that this exercise is based off of general guidelines. Your program may request additional information or recommend an alternative exercise to writing your Statement of Purpose. You should always defer to the instructions provided by your prospective program.

For instructions on writing your Statement of Purpose for Purdue University, visit the Admission Web page. Good luck!

Grad School Series: Staying Organized

4 Oct

Different requirements, different deadlines, and different procedures make applying to a variety of graduate programs challenging. Staying on top of everything is crucial to making sure you don’t miss anything important.Staying Organized Grad Schl.jpg

The Purdue University Graduate School is happy to share a few tips for organizing your application materials.

Create a separate file for each institution to which you apply. In that file, keep:

  • a checklist of the application requirements and contact information for both your program of interest and the graduate school. For many institutions, you may have to provide information to both offices.
  • a copy of your final application, along with the confirmation message you receive after successfully submitting your application.
  • a copy of your statement of purpose, along with other supplemental writing or work samples you submit.
  • copies of requests to have your transcripts and standardized test scores submitted to each institution.
  • a record of anyone you contact by email or phone and what you talked about.

Be sure to verify that everything has arrived to the places where you are applying before the application deadline.

For more information on how to apply to the Purdue University Graduate School, check out the Admissions Web page. Best of luck during the application process and beyond.

What is Graduate School & Is It Right For Me?

27 Sep

What is graduate school?

Deciding to pursue a graduate education is not a decision to make lightly. Graduate school is a very focused occupation, so it is important to have a clear idea of what you want to study.Grad School Right.png

While an undergraduate education allows you to explore a variety of areas, graduate school dives into the details of a specific topic. You may work closely with one major professor and additional faculty members to design your course of study, particularly if you pursue a PhD.

You may become part of a lab group or research team, and work closely with other students on that team. Often, these students work on similar, but not identical, topics as you.

How do I determine if a graduate school is right for me?

Graduate school requires a lot of commitment, both from you and the people with whom you will be working. Your major professor will invest a great deal of time, energy, and training to help you succeed. Determining the major professor you want to work with is one of the most important decisions you can make.

While the reputation of the school you are considering is important, even more important is the reputation of the program and the professor with whom you want to work. As a full-time student, you will generally commit two years working toward a master’s degree and an additional three to four years working toward a PhD.

You may not necessarily have scheduled school breaks (such as winter, spring, summer, and fall breaks) as vacation. Understanding this ahead of time will prevent some unexpected frustration.

Approach the graduate school process with the same attitude you would approach a job because ultimately, that’s exactly what it is.

When researching various graduate programs, important questions to consider are:

  • Are you going to enjoy working here? Are the people and environment going to encourage and support your best efforts?
  • What are the course offerings and how are they scheduled (i.e., day or night classes)?
  • How many graduate students has your potential major professor had?
  • What is the average length of time it has taken for one of this professor’s students to graduate?
  • What have been the professor’s current students’ experiences and how long have they worked with this professor? How long do they anticipate their degree completion to take? (Talk to the students directly.)
  • What are the expectations and management style of your potential major professor? When does s(he) expect you in the office? Will (s)he be available when you have questions?

Remember that the interview process is a two-way process. Not only is your school of interest trying to determine if you would make a good graduate student, but you should try to determine if your school of interest is going to be a good fit for you!

Where can I go for more information?

Although your best resources of information about potential graduate schools and programs are often your professors, advisors, career services staff, professionals in your field of interest, and peers pursuing graduate study: there are several online resources where you can search for schools and programs that may fit your interests and needs. These include:

Graduate School Application Checklist

30 Nov

Lee Gordon
Director, Office of Graduate Admissions, Purdue University Graduate School

Special Considerations for Application Deadlines

  • Application deadlines vary! You may need to adjust this timeline to meet the deadlines of the programs you apply to, so be sure to note each program’s application deadline. This timeline is based on a January 1 deadline.
  • If you find more than one deadline for your program of interest, use the earliest deadline to set your timeline; this is most often the one you must meet to be considered for fellowships and other financial assistance.
  • Access more resources at https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/prospective/preparing/

Summer Before Senior Yeargrad school application checklist.png

  • Identify your goals and consider whether or not graduate school is right for you.
  • Write a draft of your personal statement.
  • Research program options and requirements by browsing through graduate program guides (online and hard copy), university websites, and other resources.
  • Research fellowships and other types of financial assistance. Consider government agencies, philanthropic organizations, the schools you apply to, and professional organizations or honor societies as potential sources of funding.
  • Register for required standardized tests.

August-September

  • Meet with faculty members in your department to discuss your personal statement, possible programs to consider, and potential fellowships and other funding sources.
  • Determine the schools to which you will apply.
  • Get organized. Create a file for each school you will apply to and keep all related application information in the appropriate file.
  • Prepare for standardized tests.
  • If your area of interest is STEM, register and attend the Big Ten+ Graduate School Exposition. Hosted annually on the campus of Purdue University, the Grad Expo features educational workshops, an elite graduate school fair, networking receptions, and more!

September-October

  • Take standardized tests and request that your scores be sent to the appropriate schools.
  • Complete your personal statement and have it reviewed at the CCO.
  • Requests letters of recommendation from faculty; provide a copy of your personal statement and résumé/ curriculum vitae to each professor. Give your recommenders the appropriate information to submit their letters. Many recommendation letters can be submitted online and your recommenders will receive an email with instructions when you list them on your online application. If your school requires hard copy letters, give your recommenders the appropriate address.
  • Order transcripts from all post-secondary institutions and request official copies be sent directly to the schools to which you are applying.

November

  • Complete application forms. (Do a draft first!)
  • Mail application materials (if not Web-based) one month in advance of the application deadline. Pay close attention to the instructions; all documents may not go to the same address.
  • Remind your recommenders of when they must submit your letters of recommendation (i.e., the application deadline of each program – consider telling them a deadline one to two weeks earlier than the actual deadline in case something falls through at the last minute).
  • Make copies of all application pieces for your records

December

  • Check with schools to verify that your letters of recommendation, test scores, transcripts, and other required documents have arrived to complete your application by the deadline.
  • Remember that many offices will be busy at the end of the semester and over winter break, so do not wait until the last minute.

February-March

  • Schedule campus visits to locations in which you are interested. Some programs may have planned visitations for admitted students; inquire about this.
  • Prepare questions for each school to gain more information about academic programs, student life, and professional development opportunities.
  • Conduct informational interviews with students in the programs to which you have applied to gather their perspective.

April

  • Mail acceptance forms and, if required, deposits.
  • Notify schools that you will not be attending after making your decision.
  • Send thank you letters to the writers of your letters of recommendation. Be sure to let them know where you’re going to school!

Want to join Purdue’s prospective student mailing list to receive additional tips, deadline reminders, and funding information?
Visit www.purdue.edu/grad and click on Request Info.

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