Graduate School – Application
Most programs will not review your application until all parts of it are submitted. So, start preparing the application components early and send them in as soon as possible
A complete graduate school application usually consists of:
- Application Form
- Application Fee
- Official Transcripts from all institutions attended
To request your official transcript, contact the Office of the Registrar. For transcripts from other institutions, contact their Registrars.
- Test Scores
- Letters of Recommendation
Graduate and professional schools often require some sort of written statement — often called a “statement of purpose,” “personal statement,” or “letter of intent”– as a part of the application. Some statements require rather specific information–for example, the applicant’s intended area of study within a graduate field. Still others are quite unstructured, leaving the applicant free to address a wide range of matters. The importance of the statement varies from school to school and from field to field.
Determine your purpose in writing the statement
Usually the purpose is to persuade the admissions committee that you are an applicant who should be chosen. Whatever its purpose, the content must be presented in a manner that will give coherence to the whole statement.
Pay attention to the purpose throughout the statement so that extraneous material is left out.
Pay attention to the audience (committee) throughout the statement. Remember that your audience is made up of professionals in their field, and you are not going to tell them how they should act or what they should be. You are the amateur.
Determine the content of your statement
Be sure to answer any questions fully. Analyze the questions or guidance statements for the essay completely and answer all parts. Usually graduate and professional schools are interested in the following matters, although the form of the question(s) and the responses may vary:
- Your purpose in graduate study. Think this through before you try to answer the question.
- The area of study in which you wish to specialize. Learn about the discipline in animal and /or food science in detail so that you are able to state your preferences using the language of the field. It would be helpful to read some of the journal articles of faculty members under which you would like to study at the institutions you have selected.
- Your intended future use of your graduate study. Include your career goals and plans for the future.
- Your unique preparation and fitness for study in the field. Correlate your academic background with your extracurricular experience to show how they unite to make you a special candidate.
- Any problems or inconsistencies in your records or scores, such as a bad semester. Explain in a positive manner. Since this is a rebuttal argument, it should be followed by a positive statement of your abilities. In some instances, it may be more appropriate to discuss this outside of the personal statement.
- Any special conditions that are not revealed elsewhere in the application, such as a significant (35 hour per week) workload outside of school. This, too, should be followed with a positive statement about yourself and your future.
- You may be asked, “Why do you wish to attend this school?” Research the school and describe its special appeal to you.
- Above all, this statement should contain information about you as a person. They know nothing about you unless you tell them. You are the subject of the statement.
Determine your approach and style of the statement (click to open)
There is no such thing as “the perfect way to write a statement.” There is only the one that best fits you.
- Be objective, yet self-revelatory. Write directly and in a straightforward manner that tells about your experience and what it means to you. Do not use “academese.”
- Form conclusions that explain the value and meaning of your experience, such as what you learned about yourself and your field and your future goals. Draw your conclusions from the evidence your life provides.
- Be specific. Document your conclusions with specific instances. See below a list of general words and phrases to avoid using without explanation.
- Get to the point early on and catch the attention of the reader.
- Limit its length to two pages or less. In some instances it may be longer, depending on the school’s instructions.
- Use the “what I did with my life” approach.
- Use the “I’ve always wanted to be a _____” approach.
- Use a catalog of achievements. This is only a list of what you have done, and tells nothing about you as a person.
- Lecture the reader. For example, you should not write a statement such as “Communication skills are important in this field.” Any graduate admissions committee member knows that.
- Words and phrases to avoid without explanation
appealing to me
I like it
I can contribute
|meant a lot to me
|I like helping people
How important are letters of recommendation?
- Letters of recommendation are required for almost every graduate school application and are a very important part of the application process. Usually grades and test scores factor in most heavily; however, your letters of recommendation could be the deciding factor in the admission process.
How many letters of recommendation do I need?
Although it can vary, generally, you will be asked for three letters. We recommend that you send only the number of letters requested. Admissions committees do not have enough time to read extra credential
Whom should I ask for letters of recommendation?
- The best letter writers are those that know you well and can provide an evaluation of your ability to perform and succeed at the graduate level.
Graduate and professional school admissions people tell us the following make the best letter writers:
- Someone who knows you well
- Someone with the title of “Professor”
- Someone who is a professor at the school granting your baccalaureate degree
- Someone who has earned the degree which you are seeking in your graduate work
- Someone with an advanced degree who has supervised you in a job or internship aligned with the graduate program you are pursuing (e.g., Public Health, Social Work, Business Administration, etc.)
- Someone who has academically evaluated you in an upper-division class
- Note: Letters from family friends, political figures, and the like are discouraged and, in fact, may be detrimental.
How do I approach potential letter writers?
- First, make a list of professors and/or supervisors who will be your best advocates. Then, set up an appointment to discuss your request in person. Do not make the request via email. Be prepared to articulate your interest and reasons for attending graduate school.
- Letters of recommendation are written strictly on a voluntary basis. The best approach is to ask potential letter writers if they are willing to write you a strong letter. If you sense reluctance or the answer is no, ask someone else.
When should I approach letter writers?
- Professors and supervisors are generally pleased to write on your behalf; however, they are usually involved in many activities. Faculty are especially busy during the months of May and September. Be considerate of your letter writers’ time and approach them at least two months before you need the letter.
How can I go about getting good letters of recommendation?
- Since your best letters will come from those who know you well, make an effort to get to know your professors and/or supervisors. A few ways you can do this are to speak up in class, select courses with small class sizes, take more than one class from a professor, do research for a professor, take on optional projects, and regularly attend office hours.
- The best strategy you can use to get a good letter of recommendation, particularly if a professor hasn’t known you long, is to provide your letter writer with ample information about you. This way, you will get a letter that includes concrete details about you, instead of a letter that contains only your grade, which is of limited value.
What information do my letter writers need to write good letters?
You can help your letter writers write enlightening letters by giving each of them a portfolio comprised of:
- A cover note (ok to send via email after your recommender has agreed to write a letter for you) that includes:
- Information on how to get in touch with you in case they need to reach you
- What you would like emphasized in each letter
- A list of schools to which you are applying, and due dates, with the earliest due date at the top
- Any other information that is relevant
- Open and close your note with thanks and acknowledgement that the letter writer’s time is valuable and that this letter is important to your professional future.
- Your UD student ID (in case the recommender wants to view your transcript)
- A draft of your statement of purpose
- Your resume
- Recommendation forms are almost all electronic but you will have to provide the program with the Recommender’s name, title, contact info (telephone, fax, address etc)
Do graduate schools care if letters are confidential or not?
- In general, graduate programs prefer confidential letters. Admissions officials say that it displays more confidence on the part of the applicant if letters are “confidential” (meaning you, the applicant cannot see the letter).