Applying to graduate school can be a daunting process. Various documents are required to complete the application process and must be done so before posted deadlines. Otherwise, the process must be completed again, which sometimes requires a waiting period of as much as a year later. Proper adherence to the given requirements is absolutely essential.

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General Requirements

There are thousands of college and universities in the United States alone, and all have their own program-specific requirements. However, some application requirements tend to be universal. The most basic requirement is the actual application for admission. This is a simple form and includes basic information pertaining to contact details, demographics, the desired program of study, desired entrance term, a listing of previous schools attended, and any degrees that have already been awarded. Along with the application for admission is typically an admission fee. These fees vary but generally fall within a range of about $25 to $150 with the higher amounts being reserved for international students.

Transcripts

One of the most impactful documents for applying to graduate school is transcripts. These official records that are requested by the student from the previous schools attended provide vital information about a student's likelihood for success in a program. Of course, application reviewers can't definitively know if a student will be committed, focused, and highly excel in a program. But, a transcript that contains high grades along with a desirable grade point average, or GPA, can allow the reviewers to speculate that a student may truly be suitable for their specific program. Often, the more prestigious a program is, the higher the minimum GPA requirements tend to be. For admission to graduate school, it's common for programs to have a minimum GPA of at least a 3.0.

Letters of Recommendation

After a student has been deemed to have sufficient transcripts, letters of recommendations usually are taken into account. These letters of recommendation are requested by the student from individuals such as previous employers who know the work ethic of the student or a previous instructor of a student who is familiar with the student's academic work. These letters of recommendation can be especially vital to students whose GPA have application reviewers questioning their suitability for a program. Alternatively, poor letters of recommendation can do just the opposite and cause application reviewers to reconsider what was previously considered a good application. Thus, it is essential to only request letters of recommendation from individuals who can be trusted to give their honest but positive opinion of a student's abilities.

Program Dependent Requirements

Many programs choose to add on various requirements after the basic items such as the application for admission, application fee, transcripts, and letters of recommendation have been requested. Some common additional requirements can include an in-person interview, a graduate entrance exam such as the Graduate Records Exam or the GRE, or an application for funding for programs that offer fellowships or assistantships to their students.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with master degrees and doctoral degrees earn 19 percent and 49 percent more, respectively, than those with only a bachelor's degree. Although applying to graduate school can be arduous, the benefits are well worth the effort.