Applying to Graduate School

"Do I want to apply now?"

There is no simple way to answer this question because the reasoning is different for each person. You should plan to apply when you can put together the strongest possible application for the institution, degree, and the field you are entering. It is also important to decide if you feel ready to start working towards a graduate degree. Remember, you can start planning now to apply at some point in the future. You do not have to attend immediately after graduating from Wellesley. In fact, some programs even prefer (or require) a few years of experience before applying. Not sure what to do with the time between graduating from Wellesley and applying? You can schedule an appointment with your Advisor for Career Exploration and industry-specific Advisor to make a plan. As you decide if this is the best time for you to apply, here are a few questions to consider:

  • Are you sure this is what you want to do? Take the time to learn more about your selected program and about other opportunities to explore the field if you’re still undecided.
  • Do you need to attend graduate school to begin working in your industry? A year or two of work can strengthen your application and your convictions to continue on to graduate school.
  • Are you excited about the idea of continuing your graduate education now, or would you like to spend some time working, traveling, or exploring other aspects of the world first?
  • Is your academic record strong? Would it be helpful to take additional courses?
  • Are your standardized test scores competitive? Would it be helpful to take some time to prepare and retake the test?
  • Do you have the experience that your graduate schools will be looking for on your application?
  • Have you cultivated relationships with professors and mentors who will be willing and able to write strong letters of recommendation on your behalf?

These are just a few questions to get you started. Schedule an appointment with your mentor or advisor to explore your answers and make a plan of action.


The Application Process

The application process and timeline will vary by program and industry.  Some processes are complex and lengthy. Be sure to thoroughly track all components and prerequisites so you aren't denied admission due to an incomplete application. Your application is, essentially, the first thing you are saying to an admissions committee so leave a good impression. Potential components are below, be sure to consult with your Career Community Advisor for your specific programs.

  • Statement(s): prompts will vary but generally ask you to explain why you are applying to a specific program.
  • Letters of recommendation: programs will often have guidelines around who should be writing your letters. For more information about requesting letters of recommendation, click here.
  • Resume/CV: Our Resume and Cover Letter Writing resources are a great place to start.
  • Transcripts: usually from all institutions attended, be sure to request them early.
  • Sample of written work: Follow any specific guidelines about length/content, but use this sample as a chance to show off the best work of which you’re capable, ideally on a relevant topic/using relevant methodology.
  • Research proposal or statement: Programs may use different language to make the same request. These are most frequently requested for PhD programs but may also be included in a research focused master’s program. Research proposals are a chance to write specifically about what you intend to research, how, and with whom. Cambridge’s Faculty of English offers excellent general advice on what should go into any research proposal — even if your subject is not English or your program’s word-limits are different: see here.
  • Portfolio: this is usually a requirement of studio programs like an MFA
  • Interviews: format, duration, and other specifics vary by program type and institution. Our resources pages have both general interview information and more specific recommendations for our community.
  • Secondary interviewssome programs will have more than one round of interviews, especially when tied to competitive funding sources.