5 Tips to Becoming a Competitive Applicant

By Anthony Russomanno, The Princeton Review

For many people, going to graduate school is a great move. It can deliver a vital intellectual wake-up call or start you on the path to a new, more satisfying career. It can even increase your earning power (once you pay off those student loans, of course). Below are some tips that will help get you on your way to becoming a competitive grad school applicant:

  1. Deciding To Go Back to School – Start with Research. You will have to do some research because there are tons of grad schools out there offering students a myriad of educational opportunities.  Visit www.princetonreview.com if you don’t have time to spend hours and hours researching schools and use the Explore Schools to match your needs and preferences.
  1. Find the Right Grad School Don’t fall for the Brand Name Hype.  One of the first mistakes people make when applying to grad school that is easily avoidable is getting caught up in the “Brand Name Hype.”  Sure, if you get into Harvard, Stanford, or UC Berkeley, the name will be recognized when you get out of school, but a “grad school experience” is much more than a name. Find the RIGHT school! To size up a grad school, look at some major factors such as: the academic quality of the program; your chances of getting into that program; and the practical considerations that affect your choice.
  1. Applying and Getting In – Apply Early.  The odds are much better in the beginning of the rounds or rolling admissions process (by December), although the knee-jerk reaction for a nervous or shaky applicant is to wait. Schools don’t know until midway through the admissions process what the quality of the people applying will be, so don’t procrastinate.
  1. Factors of Admission. There are two kinds of factors – objective (GPA, Test Scores) and subjective (Recommendations, Personal Statement, Extra-curriculars/Work Experience/Community Involvement, Interview). Subjective criteria give the applicant the opportunity to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Really think about how you can make yourself stand out on your application.
  1. Raise Your Test ScoreTake a Free Practice Test.  Find out where you stand before you begin the process. The importance of standardized test scores varies widely, depending on the type of graduate program you’re investigating, but make sure you are at the level you need.  Visit www.princetonreview.com/demo or call 800.2Review to practice without affecting your record.

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Anthony Russomanno, M.A., M.B.A

National Director of Educational Partnerships

Earned a BA in Psychology from UC Irvine, MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine and MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management.  A frequent national presenter at high schools, colleges and conferences as an expert in the field of admissions and test preparation.   Over his 17 years of counseling and teaching, he has helped thousands of students and families.  He is The Princeton Review’s former National Product Manager and Southern California Sales and Marketing Director.  His previous employment includes Family and Child Counselor and licensed Soccer Coach.  He currently is a Princeton Review SAT premier tutor in his spare time with over 20 years of experience as well as taught the GRE, GMAT, CBEST and GRE Psychology.