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Tips on Submitting an Application


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Hello,

For two years I've worked as an admissions clerk at a respected East Coast university. Over that time I've seen people make a lot of mistakes, some of them obvious, and some harder to avoid. I've put together a list here of things you should do or not do in your applications.

Hope it helps!

1. Write your name on everything you submit.

2. Spell your name correctly on everything you submit.

3. If you have changed your name, and everything you submit is under your old name, mention that name, and if possible, put it in the "other name" blank of the application.

4. Write your birthday on everything you submit.

5. Write the correct birthday.

6. If you are sending transcripts for three schools, list all three schools into the application. Not one school, not two schools, but all three.

7. Keep in mind the following when writing a statement of purpose:

a. Statements of Purpose are not poems. 99% of you are not poets. Stop trying to write poetic Statements of Purpose. They are generally bad and we laugh at them.

b. Chances are you haven't wanted to be a PhD in Molecular Biology since you were seven. They know you're lying, or at least think you are.

c. Desire, love, and passion are highly overused. I don't mean in general, but in the same letter. Try not to use them in every single sentence.

8. Use spellcheck. When the header of your Writing Sample says Wring Sample, you better be a super genius to compensate.

9. When mentioning why you want to go to a specific school, or work with a specific faculty member, use the correct name. Don't apply to school ZZZ and say how perfect you are for school CCC. Or how much you want to go to CCC to work with Prof. ZZZ. Each online-app system lets you preview your submitted files. Preview them. Then do it again.

10. Write your name correctly on any tests you need to take (GRE, TOEFL etc.).

11. Write the correct birthday on any tests you need to take.

12. Don't ask people who hate you to write letters of recommendation. They might give you a bad recommendation.

13. Don't risk asking someone you think hates you. They might give you a bad recommendation.

14. Don't ask someone who you don't know, and doesn't want to do it. They might send a two-line letter that says, "I don't know this person well enough to offer any insight."

15. Don't send pictures of yourself, especially not vacation pictures. They won't help you, and they won't even reach the admissions council.

16. If the guidelines ask for 20-40 pages, don't send 200. It won't make you look brilliant. They receive hundreds of applicants. That's a lot of writing samples to read. Don't stand out because you're the jerk who sent them more work. They might not bother reading it at all.

18. An original transcript has to come from the school you attended (unless you have special circumstances that you've discussed with the program you are applying to). This means that a photocopy isn't enough. You have to actually have your previous school send the transcript themselves. Most will do this for free, and have the option in the student login area.

19. Try not to wait until the last minute, or at least try and send in your hard-copy requirements at the same time you apply or after. The longer the test scores and transcripts sit there, the more ratty they get. People have to recheck them every few days, and there are thousands of you.

20. If you call the help-line, don't be an ass. These people are trying to help you. Also keep in mind that some problems are with the company that runs the online-application, such as Embark, which the school has absolutely no control over it. If you feel that you really have to be a jerk, try and picture what would happen if you want up to someone, punched them in the stomach, then asked if they'd do you a favor. Also, don't waste their time. Before calling to complain that they lost the test you submitted, check to make sure you actually submitted it.

Edited by BDav
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Some things do depend on the school. I personally applied to five schools recently and each one required original transcripts with the application. When I talked about transcripts, I really meant any hard-copy item the school requires, which often includes transcripts. It is a good idea to double check requirements for each school though, because so many have minute differences.

Edited by BDav
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About uploading scanned transcripts vs sending official copies - it varies from school to school. Some want official hard copies - often two of each - I also came across a school that wanted three of each, some want both scanned uploaded copies and official hard copies mailed in, while some just want uploaded scanned copies and ask for official copies only if they offer admission. All the schools I applied to want only scanned uploaded copies, but I came across the other 2 kinds too during my initial schools search. One of the schools on my list doesn't even want the official tests scores reports till they make an offer - they just want the candidates to fill in the test scores online.

Edited by Seeking
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About uploading scanned transcripts vs sending official copies - it varies from school to school. Some want official hard copies - often two of each - I also came across a school that wanted three of each, some want both scanned uploaded copies and official hard copies mailed in, while some just want uploaded scanned copies and ask for official copies only if they offer admission. All the schools I applied to want only scanned uploaded copies, but I came across the other 2 kinds too during my initial schools search. One of the schools on my list doesn't even want the official tests scores reports till they make an offer - they just want the candidates to fill in the test scores online.

About half my schools wanted hard copies, and the other half were extremely adamant about NOT sending them anything by mail, so everyone should make sure that they check with the specific school first.

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Excellent tips, although I would hope most of those would be common sense.

About transcripts, my schools asked you to self-report grades or upload a scanned copy, they only asked for official transcripts when you were offered admission.

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