Getting into Grad School
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Getting into Grad School

Get advice and insights from an experienced college professor on the application and admissions process for grad school.
5.0 (1 rating)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
13 students enrolled
Created by Justin Hollander
Last updated 3/2015
English [Auto]
Current price: $13.99 Original price: $19.99 Discount: 30% off
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This course includes
  • 1 hour on-demand video
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Understand the graduate school admissions process
  • No special background necessary, simply an interest in going to graduate school

An experienced college professor will share his insights and experience around five topics: 1) finding the right grad schools, 2) the application essay, 3) letters of recommendation, 4) the campus visit, and 5) identifying an advisor. Each class session will cover the key ideas you need to know to help you find the program that best suits you and launches you into the career you want!

Course Description

Going to graduate school is a major step, understanding the application and admissions process is key to getting the most out of the experience. This course aims to help you get into the grad school that is the best fit for you.

Knowing the Unwritten Rules

Like so many other endeavors, the application and admissions process for graduate school can be mysterious and opaque. In this class, you'll learn some behind the scenes tips about how admissions committees think and what you can do to best position yourself for success.

Contents and Overview

This course contains 5 lectures and associated textual material. It's designed for anyone, regardless of topics and interest areas.

By the end of this course, you'll have valuable skills that will help you narrow down the list of schools you are going to apply to and prepare your application plan.

Who this course is for:
  • This course is designed for anyone considering applying to graduate school
Course content
Expand 5 lectures 46:09
+ Getting you into grad school
5 lectures 46:10

a. Introductions: I am the Chair of my Department's Committee that oversees graduate

admissions - have been reviewing applications for the last eight years.

b. You have to be brutally honest about your interests and find several departments/schools that

match those interests.Like the college admissions process, you want to identify safety,

moderate, and reach schools.Many accreditation agencies publish online admission rates (you

can also call and ask how competitive admissions is).

c. Do your research, not just web searches, but connect with alums through your real and virtual

social networks (e.g FB, LinkedIn, your college alumni databases)- ask good questions: 1) what

is this program most well known for, 2) what kinds of jobs are alums doing, 3) what's the vibe

there - casual/formal, structured/unstructured, ...

d. Take some vacation time and visit as many campuses as possible - more on this in the 4th


Preview 10:19

a. Application has many pieces, the essay is the most important.The admissions committee wants

you to make a compelling case about 1) fit, 2) your capacity to do the work of the program, and

3) your potential to be a successful alum.Let's discuss each in some details

i. fit

You need to connect your interests to the faculty's interests and projects - it's OK to be

specific, "I spent a year in Costa Rica and would be interested in Prof. Smith's recent research

project in Costa Rica".The most important thing here is to give concrete examples of past

experiences (internships, volunteer gigs, jobs) that you participated and you found meaningful

and that the faculty will see as directly relevant to the work you would do in that


ii. can you do the work

Examples of challenging experiences that you thrived in that might be similar to what you did.

When I was considering grad school, I took a night class at a small local college and aced the

class.I talked about that experience in my own essay.

iii.potential alum success

Here you will need to position your past experiences as part of a trajectory towards success

after grad school - though it is helpful for you to define success.

b. You probably can't find out which faculty members are on the Admissions Committee (in some

Departments/Schools they all are) but look at the writing of at least a small sample.Find

examples of when they write for the public (e.g. op-eds, blogs) what style/tone do they employ?

Be authentic and true to yourself, but do try to emulate that same style/tone.

c. Be revealing, share something about yourself - but not too much.

d. Get help!Show drafts of your essay to friends, colleagues, your letter recommenders.I did

this and one of my former professors was blunt: the essay was terrible, he suggested that I


The Dreaded Application Essay

a. Who will write the letter, do you trust them? Always check the

box that you will not see it.Some letter writers offer to share it (don't ask). Most grad

schools ask for certain types of recommenders, if not try to get at least one from college and

(if you're past college) one from your life past college.

b. Be respectful of your letter writers.Give them ample time, at least 3-4 weeks to write the

letter. Provide them with a list of all the schools you want to apply to, along with a resume

and your essay (it's polite to invite them to offer edits/suggestions).

c. Be sure to let the letter writers know the outcome of your grad application process, they are

critical members of your network!

Letters of Recommendation

a. Yes, it's expensive, but so is grad school.You'll be in this location, these buildings for

a long time, it's worth spending some time and money to make sure it's a good fit.

b. Plan ahead: make arrangements with admissions/recruitment staff at least 4-6 weeks prior to

your visit.Then, reach out to faculty who have similar interests and set up at least a few 1-

on-1 meetings (word of caution, if profs are too busy to meet you as a prospective student, that

doesn't bode well for when you are a matriculated student.)Also ask to set up meetings with

current students.

c. Some schools do interviews, so they may interrogate you.Don't sweat it, your job is to

interview them, is this the place you want to be.

d. Key questions to consider during your campus visit:

i. Quality of the facilities, are these spaces you would enjoy spending countless hours

ii. Quality of library resources (databases, journals, book holdings in your field, ILL)

iii. Vibe of the place, is everyone wearing a tie or Birkenstocks?

iv. What is it like to live there (you won't be spending all of your waking hours as a

student) - is there a local nightlife, where do most students live? Is there on-campus housing?

What are rents like?

What you Need to Know about the Campus Visit

I've left the most important thing for last. A surprisingly little known fact of the grad

admissions process, finding an advisor is the most important to your success both getting in and

getting out (graduating).

a. Who is publishing in your area of interest? (dwell on this)Are they publishing with their


b. What happens to their students, do they get jobs?Google and LinkedIn can help, also asking

Admissions staff.

c. Meet them, is it a good fit?Do you get along?Are they planning to retire next month? Do

they have funding to support you? Or for summer jobs?

d. We've covered a lot of ground. Recap main ideas of the course.

If you want to learn more about my research or teaching, be sure to follow by iTunes podcast "Cognitive Urbanism" -

Finding an Advisor