THE EXTRA MILE
Competitive graduate programs receive many applications for admission from students who submit excellent credentials. Beyond submitting the requisite transcripts, statements, test scores and letters of recommendations, you may want to distinguish yourself by demonstrating your commitment to your field. Join professional organizations, read professional journals and where practicable, attend conferences. Familiarize yourself with the work of faculty members from your targeted schools and when appropriate, contact them before applying.
You may wish to arrange for an interview with the department chair or advisor of one or more graduate schools at the top of your list. Prepare a list of questions and points of discussion that relate to specific needs and interests that are of importance to you. Ask to meet faculty and peers, where possible. Check out physical facilities of importance to you (laboratories, libraries, dormitories, etc.). Ask about any scholarships, fellowships, or other forms of financial aid.
Remember, generally there is no scientific way that the schools to which you are applying make the final decision as to whom they admit. If you have conscientiously prepared each part of your application, presented yourself as a person who can benefit from graduate study and can make a contribution to your chosen field, then you have done your best to present yourself for consideration. Good luck!