Digital campaign copy: Five tips for making your grad school application stand out

University of Wisconsin-Madison

First-rate graduate programs are competitive, so it’s critical that you make an impression at the admissions office. Here are five ways to separate your app from the pack:

  • 1. Follow instructions: You’d be surprised how many applicants write the essays they want to write, not the ones admissions officers request. Tailor your personal statement and other essays to the questions asked, and prove you know your audience by showing awareness of the school’s mission. Demonstrating interest in the faculty’s research can score you a few brownie points.
  • 2. Show why you’re a great fit: Highlighting how you’re different from other applicants is smart, but illustrating how your unique qualities might benefit others–and further the school’s goals–is smarter. Maybe growing up with a stutter has made you a skilled listener, or perhaps living abroad has instilled an important lesson about cultural differences.
  • 3. Ace entrance tests: Everyone isn’t a stellar test taker, but do everything you can to put your best foot forward, whether it’s hiring a tutor, taking a prep course, or simply getting enough rest before your exams. Strong test scores increase your chance of an acceptance letter, as well as scholarships and fellowships.
  • 4. Screen references: Do your references know you well? Are they prepared to talk up the strengths you’d like admissions officers to remember most? Do they answer questions directly and succinctly, or do they tend to ramble? Ask references if they’d like you to craft a short list of talking points to consider.
  • 5. Review your work: Tempting as it may be, don’t wait until the eleventh hour to file your applications. Reread every piece you intend to submit, and consider having a colleague or mentor give you feedback. Root out awkward sentences and spelling errors, and then polish each app until it shines.

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