Once you’ve decided you want to go back to school and pursue a higher degree, you have to apply. While nothing can guarantee your admission to a school, there are many things you can do to improve your chances. Here are some suggestions:
1. Choose a program that suits you for which you fit the criteria. If there’s a minimum GPA or testing score, make sure you match or exceed it. While there are exceptional candidates, many schools won’t even look at someone who doesn’t have the necessary knowledge base or doesn’t match the criteria they’ve laid out. Similarly, don’t choose a school that doesn’t fit your vision for your life. If your beliefs don’t match with the core beliefs of the school, the odds are the classes and other people won’t suit you either. If you want to be a city dweller, rural Ohio may not be for you, no matter how amazing the program. Be open-minded, but be honest with yourself.
2. Get in touch with students and professors in the program. This is a great way to get a feel for the program to be sure that it’s right for you and to get your name into the pile. A professor who’s interested in the work you’re doing may not be able to single-handedly get you in, but they can tip the scale in your favor.
3. Follow instructions. Get your name right on the application. It sounds crazy but seriously, people make this mistake. Fill in all the required forms and answer all the questions in a way that addresses the question. Don’t send your architecture portfolio, however impressive it may be, as a writing sample. Don’t mail your materials to the wrong office. Little things like this can delay the department getting your application, which hurts your chances, or reflect poorly on you and your listening skills.
4. Go the extra mile. If there are optional fields, fill them in. Take the GREs even if you don’t have to, if you have time and can afford it. If there’s a minimum number of words, pages, or samples, send in more than that (though never more than the maximum). Be in touch. Get relevant things on your resume. Show that you’re interested and paying attention.
5. Listen to yourself. One the biggest mistakes applicants make is having a personal essay or statement that makes them sound like the kind of person you don’t want around. Many departments vet people by reading their personal essays first to see if they’re even the sort of person they want to be around. If you sound cruel, crazy, overly aggressive, passive, disinterested in your writing sample, the selection committee may never even see your stellar grades and impressive portfolio of work. Be yourself and be mindful of how you would introduce yourself to someone important to your career.
Hopefully, these tips help you to get into the school of your dreams. Good luck!