I’ve been working in graduate admissions for nine years, and have reviewed hundreds of applications. Along the way, I’ve compiled a mental list of the common mistakes that applicants make, and I thought I would share them with you. Read this before you hit “Submit” on your application!
Using a Non-Professional Email Address
Please take thirty seconds to open up a Gmail account with a simple user name. Good. Now you don’t have to write “email@example.com” on your resume or recite “firstname.lastname@example.org” to an admissions counselor over the phone. Of all the parts of your application, your email address shouldn’t be the one that gets you a red flag in the application review.
Skimming the Instructions
Read through all instructions before beginning the application. That way, you will know you need to upload an official transcript and whether or not you need to send us your college diploma. You will understand what a “complete” application consists of. Otherwise, you will be emailing the admissions office to ask questions that could have been answered with a few minutes of preparation, or you will be making us track you down to obtain documents. Don’t give the admissions office a negative impression before we’ve even reviewed your application.
Disregarding the Essay Question
Oftentimes, applicants have the idea that they are writing a “personal statement” and come armed with the words they want to say, regardless of what the school is actually requesting in the essay. Read the question carefully first. When you’re finished writing, have a friend read it and see if they can tell what question you are answering. Essays should also be succinct. Respect the requested word count and do your best to answer the question in a concise manner.
Not Proofreading Your Resume
This sounds so simple. You’ve probably been hearing this since you first started applying for internships. However, after nine years of seeing typos (even spellcheck-able typos!) on resumes, I need to include this advice. A typo on your resume is probably not going to crush your chances for admission, but it does nothing to strengthen your profile in the eyes of the Admissions Committee.
Remember, your application is the very first impression the school is going to have of you. This will determine if you’ll get to the interview stage, where you can really shine. Applicants often ask if it is better to apply early or late. My answer is that it is best to apply when you have the strongest application you can. If that means taking time to revise your essays or have a friend review everything for errors, then take that time – it is worth it.
If you’d like to connect with me to discuss your application, or if you have any admissions questions, please feel free to connect with me.