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Graduate School Application Tips

Graduate School Application Advising

Applying to graduate school can be a complex and time consuming task. English department advisors and full-time faculty are available to talk to you about your career goals, your course of study, and options for graduate school. Professor Bobrow holds Graduate School Application workshops every spring and Personal Essay Writing workshops every fall, and he is available to work with you on all aspects of your applications, especially the personal essay (statement of purpose). If you are considering graduate school, talk to an advisor no later than your junior year, even if you plan to take some time off between earning your bachelor’s degree and undertaking graduate studies. Make it a point to attend the Graduate School Application workshop and to schedule an individual appointment with Professor Bobrow.

There are links here to Frequently Asked Questions about applying to graduate school, a Graduate School Application Task Checklist, Graduate Application Timeline, and a Personal Essay Writing Guide. If you are planning to apply to graduate school, or even thinking about it, it’s important to keep in mind the following basic Dos and Don’ts.


  1. Start early, preferably no later than your junior year.
  2. Research the discipline, schools, and programs you plan to pursue, including each school’s requirements, pre-requisites, faculty, placement history, and financial aid possibilities; you should also research fellowship, scholarship, and award possibilities within Hunter College and those offered by local and national non-profit organizations and foundations, as well as state and federal government agencies.
  3. Speak to an English department advisor about your plans.
  4. Make an appointment with Professor Bobrow to discuss the application process and attend his workshops on applying to graduate schools and writing the personal statement.
  5. Take courses with full-time faculty and talk to them about your plans.
  6. Take challenging, advanced courses, including an Honors seminar if you are eligible.
  7. Try to take a test-prep course for the GRE (or any other standardized exams required by the schools); if you cannot take a course, be sure to devote two or three months to active preparation.
  8. Take the GRE and any other required exams at least four months before the application deadline, and sooner for those exams that are only offered three or four times a year.
  9. Ask full-time faculty for letters of recommendation at least two months before the application deadline, and make sure to waive your right to read the letter because letters without that waiver are often not taken as seriously be admissions committees.
  10. Begin working on your writing sample at least two months before your application is due. This is an essential component of applications for many programs. Make sure to note page length requirements for each school.
  11. Begin to work on your personal essay at least two months before your application is due.


  1. Go through the application process on your own; use the resources available to you in the English department and in the College.
  2. Wait until the semester in which the application is due to begin the process.
  3. Wait until just before the deadline to submit your application.
  4. Assume you can’t afford a particular school or program.
  5. Apply to only one school. Students commonly apply to between 5-10 schools.
  6. Be alarmed at the application fees. Students who can demonstrate severe financial hardship can often have those fees waived.
  7. Be discouraged by a disappointing GRE score; you can take the exam again and it is only one factor that admissions committees consider.
  8. Assume your personal essay doesn’t really matter; it’s an absolutely essential part of your application and sometimes the difference between acceptance and rejection.
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