Applying to Graduate School: Infrequently Asked Questions

by Mary Biroscak '13

Graduate school application deadlines are approaching quickly, and many Azusa Pacific undergraduate students are in the final stages of applying. Joseph Bentz, Ph.D., professor in the Department of English and director of the Pew College Society, offers insight for students who are either in the midst of the application process or considering graduate school for the future.

Admission Tests Good students may not necessarily achieve the scores they want without adequate preparation. “The GRE is actually about test-taking strategies,” says Bentz. “Students can find the answers without solving the whole problem.” Students can take a prep course, study independently, or combine both approaches. The key is to begin preparing early.

Statement of Purpose In his book, Graduate Admissions Essays, author Donald Asher advises students to research the faculty for each program they are considering. Bentz also recommends referencing why the faculty’s research or writing motivates you to apply to the program. He points out that graduate school faculty view their students as colleagues and consequently look for people with whom they want to work.

Letters of Recommendation Request letters from professors or others who know you personally. Bentz notes that students often focus on title or position when requesting letters of recommendation. He adds that submitting recommendation letters from people who can speak about you as an individual is more impactful. Provide a résumé or copy of your statement of purpose to each source, and indicate if there are specific aspects of your academic background you would like the letter to address.

Interviews Programs may require a personal interview. While your application packet speaks to your academic ability, Bentz says that an interview indicates your ability to work well with others. Consider why the graduate program would be beneficial for you, but also consider what you could potentially contribute.

Deadlines Don’t miss them! Although students can play it safe by adhering to Asher’s guideline of applying one month before the deadline, this may not be possible for everyone. Bentz says that submitting all materials a full two weeks prior to the due date should ensure timely receipt.

Deferring Bentz advises students who postpone graduate school to find ways to stay connected in their field. Possibilities include interning or taking a relevant class or two. Avoid undertaking large financial obligations, sticking as close to the student lifestyle as possible. If graduate school is your goal, be inventive in taking steps toward seeing it realized.