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"These tips are based on edited versions of notes from graduate seminars and discussions with my professors or other professionals and supplemented by extensive internet research. Although I do not cover everything, I believe this gives a good basic overview of things to consider when beginning the application process"- Isabelle Johnsen


General Tips
Personal Statements
Statement of Purpose
Letters of Rec
More Resources

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence"-Vince Lombardi

General Tips

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Elements of an Application

Elements of an Application
CV's, Personal Statements, and More!


A CV is not a resume. It gives specifics of your experience so that people in your field will appreciate your specialness to your research, publications, etc.

  • a comprehensive statement of your educational background, teaching, and research experience

  • include: heading, education, relevant experience, publications, presentations

  • need to have sort of a ‘balance’ between your masters and undergrad (if you're applying to Ph.D.’s)

    • this balance is going to differ per-app… pick what’s right for the school

  • shows how broad your experience is

    • don’t overplay your experience if it’s not there… than explain gaps in Statement… remember there is an interview, many people in the past have been caught lying… most likely you’re not going to be the one who gets away with it

  • this is a supplement to your personal statement/statement of purpose

  • list

    • scholarships you won

    • degrees

    • [publications

    • Extra circulars

    • Something that shows commitment to the field

    • Foreign/modern languages

      • Reading and speaking

      • Can pump it up a little … but not too far they will call you out HARD

      • Boast but don’t go too far

      • Very safe if you just list the semesters of languages you took in colleges

    • Professional organizations you have joined

Personal Statement            v         Statement of Purpose  

-who you are
-highlights: personal motivations for applying and major accomplishments
-challenges you faced in your career
-personal motivations for applying
-how you developed you research
-relevant experiences or challenges 


-about what you want to do


à your academic strengths

à background

à career goals

à research interests

à how your git with the program

  1. academic and professional background

  2. skills

  3. accomplishments

  4. research interests

  5. academic career/goals

  6. what about this program is right for you

Letters of Recommendation 

Choice in Recommenders
  • Usually, applications take 2-3

  • 1 main one: your mentor

    • The other two don’t have to know you as well

  • The idea:

    • They have known you for a while

    • Took classes with them

    • People that can talk about what your work as a scholar can look like

  • Have to be strategic

  • The other 2:

    • May come from different fields

    • Sometimes it's ok 4 the 3rd person to not know you well enough if they have a prominent name in the field

    • Remember, the more niche your subject area is… the more likely it is that someone will know who your recommender is (personally and or professionally)

  • In American grad schools, the rec letters are expected to be 100% positive​

  • If your letter writer is well known… the program most likely knows them

  • In the letters, they are looking to see if your teachers will describe you as someone who will be a good teacher down the line

    • Qualities and commitment

  • The letters matter

    • If a prof seems hesitant when you ask them for a letter of rec, then find a diff person

      • That Dr may be too busy to write you a good one/commit him or herself to fully devote themselves to the letter

    • Not all your letters will have the same clout

    • An assistant prof may not have as much pull

    • BUT make sure to balance… need at least one person who knows you really well

More Resources

nvz's resouces

doyoudigitnvz's resources

Do's and Don'ts

Application do's and Don'ts

Download the application planner

Application Roadmap

Having trouble organizing your applications? This planner provides:

1. A Yearly Calendar

2. A Final Application List

3. Notes Page for Each Application

4. Monthly and Weekly Goals Tracker 

5.Mental Health Check in's

6. Prompts to Inspire Your Personal Statement

Download Complete application guide

Having second thoughts on grad school?

grad apps are expensive! read our list of microgrants to help you fund your applications!

More Resources

even More resources...

Personal Statement v statement of purpose



Applying in the UK?

Have any suggestions for tips and tricks?

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