In this section we will look closely at the application itself and how you will submit your written materials. We will describe the kinds of written products you will be required to submit, discuss different aspects of these narratives and provide various examples. For some applications you will be required to include all the documents we discuss here, and others will require only a few. There are also university programs that will ask you to address a particular question as a prompt for an essay. Knowing the requirements of the forms described here and writing drafts in advance of the application deadline will help you prepare for nearly any kind of question.
A few other important issues about applications:
All universities now have online applications but they aren’t open year-round. It is best to check the application requirements a year ahead if possible or review the application as soon as it opens, even if you aren’t going to apply until the deadline. Occasionally there are changes made in the summer months but they usually aren’t that significant.
There is often a general graduate school application for any program at a given university, with each degree program having special requirements. Make sure you check the department page for your degree to make sure you have followed all application instructions.
Some applications are “dynamic” which means you won’t see all the application requirements until you input the program you are applying for — then the application adjusts and opens the required tabs or links for that particular program. Make sure you are aware of all the documents you need to prepare for an application so you can plan your time accordingly.
Some programs and universities also require interviews, but for many, the essay is the one place where you are able to “speak” about yourself in terms other than the numerical representations of grades, GPA and test scores. Taking the time to write a good essay is important. The resume or CV is also a standard document where you can showcase your strengths, interests and skills.
Below is a short description of each component as well as information about applying to private universities and through portal systems. You can find more information and examples from successful applicants by going to each page from the menu to the left.
- Statement of Purpose: This essay summarizes your achievements to date, describes your research interests, and articulates your future goals.
- Personal History or Personal Statement: Your personal history is not “personal.” This essay gives the reader a sense of you as a person outside your research and career goals. It is sometimes used to determine fellowships and scholarships. You can describe family background, obstacles you’ve overcome, extracurricular and/or leadership activities. You may also address academic difficulties that might raise a red flag for the reader.
- Personal Statement: Law schools, medical and dental schools, and other health related professional schools often ask for an essay called a Personal Statement. This is usually written as an essay that combines elements of the Statement of Purpose and the Personal History. The prompt is usually some variation of: Explain why you want to be a lawyer, doctor, dentist and/or physician assistant.
- The MSW Essay: The MSW programs at the CSUs ask applicants to answer a series of questions. Some programs require the responses to be synthesized into one essay and others ask for the questions to be addressed separately. UCLA and UC Berkeley MSW programs ask for essays similar to those all prospective students submit. If you are applying to a university outside of California, the essay requirements will be similar.
- Resume and Curriculum Vitae: You may already have a resume but you will want to insure it has the correct orientation for graduate school. A CV is an academic form of a resume which focuses primarily on your research activities.
- Addendum: This document can be used to explain a substandard grade or test scores that may raise a red flag for some admission committee members.
- Potential Mentors: You will want to incorporate the names of potential mentors in your Statement of Purpose. These are faculty members in the programs you are applying to whose work aligns with your own interests.
- Recommendations: Most applications generally ask for three references. PhD programs and academic Master degree programs want recommendations from professors. But professional programs also want to hear from supervisors and administrators with whom you have worked.
- Interviews: Medical school, dental school and PsyD programs require interviews, and face-to-face interactions may also be an important part of other degree or special programs. Preparation is key.
- Applications for Private Universities: You may encounter requests for different kinds of information on private university applications. A few examples are provided in this section to give you an idea of the range of information that may be required.
- Portals: The California State University system uses a portal application system similar to the portals used by professional degree programs. A portal is a document submission structure that allows you to input basic information only once to a central application. Then you will submit more specific information to each of the programs you select.
We help California’s former foster youth apply to graduate programs and professional schools by providing the knowledge each applicant needs to create a competitive application and succeed.