Navigating the Application Process
The graduate school application process is comprised of several important elements, some of which vary by program type or even school. Access the below resources for information on the most common application elements.
What should I know about the admissions tests?
Most graduate schools require an applicant to complete an entrance exam(s).
Programs vary so be sure to check with your desired graduate program for its specific requirements.
Graduate Record Exam (GRE) (www.gre.org) The GRE General Test is a computer-based test that measures your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing skills. Click here for information about the test, including how to register to take it.
The GRE Subject Tests are designed to measure your knowledge of one of three specific areas: mathematics; physics; and psychology. Note: The GRE Chemistry test was discontinued following the April 2023 administration and the GRE Biology and the GRE Literature in English tests were discontinued following the April 2021 administration. Scores on these tests will continue to be reportable for five years.
Click here for information about GRE Subject Tests, including test format, dates, testing centers, and registration information.
Please note: Review/preparation materials are available for borrowing from the Career Center library in 201 Hogg Hall.
Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) (www.mba.com)
The GMAT is a computer-based test that consists of four main sections—Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. Click here for specifics about the test.
Please be advised that you must make an appointment to take the GMAT and you must make payment with a credit card at the time you register. Click here for information about how to register to take the GMAT.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT) (www.lsac.org)
The LSAT is an integral part of law school admission in the United States, Canada, and a growing number of other countries. The purpose of the LSAT is to test the skills necessary for success in the first year of law school. This test is broken down into two parts: the first part of the test is a multiple-choice exam that includes reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning questions. The second part of the test is a written essay, called LSAT Writing. Click here for specifics about the test, including format and dates.
For more information about applying to law school and the LSAT, see the Lafayette College Legal Professions Advising Program website.
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) (www.aamc.org)
The MCAT is a computer-based standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.
Information about registering to take the MCAT can be found here. Be sure to meet with Health Professions Advising to discuss appropriate timing for the MCAT based on your individual goals and intended timeline for pursuing medical school.
Admissions tests preparations resources
Below is a list of some test prep options. The Gateway Career Center does not endorse one program over another. Carefully consider your learning style and time commitment before deciding what type of test prep is best for you.
Offers practice tests for the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, among others. These practice tests cover all the test sections in each of these tests. Your performance is timed and scored as well. Use this resource to learn more about the test, including the test structure and other prep resources.
GMAT, DAT, General GRE, MAT, LSAT, OAT, MCAT, and Subject GRE test prep resources. Be sure to explore the website to access free test prep resources as well. Visit Kaplan’s Tuition Assistance Program page to see if you qualify for reduced tuition.
Online test prep company that offers support in preparing for exams such as the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT. Access video lessons, practice questions, and full-length practice tests via a computer or the mobile app.
LSAT, GMAT, GRE test prep courses available as well as a selection of LSAT and other preparation books.
Courses and test prep resources for GMAT, LSAT, GRE, MCAT, DAT, OAT, TOEFL tests.
Courses available for LSAT, GRE, and GMAT prep.
A selection of test preparation resource guides are also available for borrowing in the Career Center library (201 Hogg Hall).
What’s the importance of a personal statement, statement of purpose, or other essay?
Never underestimate the importance of your essay or personal statement.
It is suggested that you write several drafts and have several people review those drafts before your final version is ready to submit.
The emphasis on essays or personal statements varies tremendously from institution to institution. The application essay or personal statement can be anything from a couple of paragraphs about why you want to attend graduate school, to a lengthy document which expounds on your achievements, strengths and weaknesses, and your motivation for attending. Still others ask you to address hypothetical problems.
When reviewing essays and personal statements, admissions committees may be trying to evaluate several things about you such as the following:
- Motivation and commitment to a field of study
- Expectations with regard to the program and career opportunities
- Writing ability
- Major areas of interest
- Research, work, volunteer experience
- Educational background
- Immediate and long-term goals
- Reasons for deciding to pursue graduate education in a particular field and at a particular institution.
- Personal uniqueness – what you would add to the diversity of the entering class
Helpful resources for writing essays or personal statements
- Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way Into the Graduate School of Your Choice, Don Asher
- Great Application Essays for Business School, Paul Bodine
- Great Personal Statements for Law School, Paul Bodine
- Medical School Essays That Made a Difference, 2nd Edition, The Staff of the Princeton Review
NOTE: The above books are available for reference in the Career Center Resource Library (201 Hogg Hall).
About.com: Graduate Essays
Provides a helpful overview of the purpose of the Graduate admissions essay, tips for what to include and not include, things to think about before writing your essay, and more.
GradSchools.com: Writing graduate school statements and personal essays
Provides tips for writing a Graduate School Statement including how to choose a topic, tips for editing, guidance for your essay introduction, advice for concluding your essay, among others.
Writing Personal Statements Online
An online handbook that walks through the personal statement writing process for students applying for scholarships and graduate study.
Career Center Counselors – Call (610.330.5115) or stop by the Career Center (201 Hogg Hall) to make an appointment to talk with a Gateway Counselor about your personal statement.
Academic Department Graduate School Liaisons (Check with your Gateway Counselor about this resource.)
Lafayette College Writing Associate (WA) Drop-In Service Writing Associates can provide general feedback and help with organization of your ideas and flow of content.
Are letters of recommendation and/or transcripts needed?
Information about recommendations
Usually, two or three letters of recommendation will be required for admission into a graduate program. Check with the institution of your choice for their policy. They may require the recommendations to be from faculty members, however, some schools may specify a mix of faculty members and others who know you well.
1. Ask your professor nicely and politely. It is suggested to ask the professor in-person (or virtually) whenever possible. If you cannot ask in-person, avoid asking the professor by way of a quickly jotted, informal email. Take time to write a thoughtful communication. If you are in doubt about the kind of recommendation the reference will write, ask them.
2. Early, early, early. It takes time and care to write a good letter of recommendation and professors are busy. Ask for the letter well in advance of the due date. How far in advance? The earlier the better–at least a month before the due date to be safe. Never ask for a letter fewer than two weeks before the deadline. Be sure to provide the professor with the due date and instructions for submitting the letter.
3. Give the professor talking points. Just because you did well in the professor’s class doesn’t mean that the professor knows you. This is very important: the more information you give the professor, the better the letter your professor can write! If you inform your professor that you won a college-wide academic award, then that information will likely end up in your letter. You may want to provide some or all of the following:
• Information about your experiences with the letter-writer (e.g., courses taken, class project topics, etc.)
• Your resume or curriculum vitae
• Information about the program to which you are applying
• Honor societies to which you belong
• Anything that makes you unique
• Awards that you have won
• Relevant work experience or internships
• Service activities such as volunteer work
• Copies of admissions essays
• Anything you want included in the letter
4. Make your professor’s job easy. Fill out as much information as you can. If the recommendation must be submitted through the graduate school’s electronic application system, be sure to fill out anything you can for the professor and send them the direct URL where they will submit the letter. If the recommendation needs to be mailed, give the professor a pre-addressed, stamped envelope. These courtesies are especially important if the professor must write several recommendations for you.
5. Waive your rights. Many letters of recommendation allow you to choose whether you waive or retain your rights to see the letter. You should always waive your rights. The readers of the letter will give the letter more weight. Many letter-writers won’t write a non-confidential letter. If you’re nervous that the letter-writer won’t write you a good letter of recommendation, then ask someone else!
6. Follow up. Professors have many responsibilities, and it’s possible that your professor may forget to write your letter. Don’t be afraid to check in periodically with your professor to see if the recommendation has been sent. Just be careful not to be a nag.
7. Thank your professor! Write a thank-you note to your letter-writer (at least an email thank-you note)!
8. Did you get it? Let your professor know if you get the job, the internship, or the spot in graduate school. They want to know!
Information about transcripts
Providing your transcript to the institutions where you apply is an almost universal requirement. Visit the Registrar’s Office website for information about how to request an official transcript. Official transcripts are sealed and stamped by the Registrar’s Office. They are not provided directly to the requester, but are mailed to the institutions where you are applying.
If you are only required to submit an unofficial transcript at the time of application, you can access your records using Banner Self-Service. Simply copy “screenshots” of your academic records and paste into a Word document to submit as an attachment to the institution.