Graduate School Application Guide

Osgoode meeting

Ten Early Steps to Preparing a Competitive Application

You’ve made the decision to go for it. Here are some early considerations for your application. Note: Early means starting at least a year prior to the deadline with the first steps.

  1. Identify programs and professors of interest.
  2. Actively involve yourself in your field of study and keep your grades up.
  3. Build relationships with the professionals you would like as your recommenders.
  4. Prepare for testing required for admission (e.g., GRE, MCAT, GMAT).
  5. Research and apply for merit-based external funding.
  6. Make note of application deadlines and required documents.
  7. Write your Statement of Interest and writing samples.
  8. Update your resumé.
  9. Have your transcripts sent to York University (if you are not already a York student).
  10. Submit your application and all supporting documents by the respective deadlines. Your entire application to York, including the supporting materials, can be submitted online at go.yorku.ca/grad-steps.

Grad School - Supplementary Materials

What Makes a Good Statement of Interest?

The Statement of Interest is your chance to shine during the application process, your opportunity to stand out from the crowd and make the case for your acceptance into your program of choice. The statement needs to reflect who you are and what would make you an asset to the program in 500 to 1,000 words.

On the most concrete level, your statement will have to answer these four questions:

  1. What would you like to study in graduate school?
  2. What motivated you to choose your field and the particular program to which you are applying?
  3. How are your past studies and experiences relevant to your program choice?
  4. What do you plan to achieve with your graduate degree? There is also a fifth, overarching question:
  5. What makes you unique compared to other candidates?

Use the following guidelines to help keep you on track as you compose the best Statement of Interest possible:

  1. Prepare. Research your program, check to see if the committee wants specific questions answered in the statement, brainstorm about your goals, experiences, motivations and how they fit with your program of choice.
  2. Be coherent. Create a unifying theme in your narrative by linking your points with continuity and focus to give meaning and a sense of purpose to your statement.
  3. Be specific. Demonstrate your points by example, creating a scene in the mind’s eye. As in all writing, show, don’t tell. If you find this difficult, keep asking yourself “how” at each point.
  4. Be bold. Don’t hide behind bland generalities and make sure the voice your reader hears is unmistakably yours. Don’t confuse boldness with hubris, though.
  5. Be concise. Stay on point, write in an active voice and choose your words mindfully.

It always helps to have a trusted friend or colleague review your statement. As you revise, keep in mind the importance of form: your opening paragraph sets the tone, your final lines leave a lasting impression and what you present in your statement matters as much as how you present it.

How to Request the Letter of Recommendation You Want

Letters of Recommendation help admissions committees gauge your academic aptitude and future potential, and while you cannot control what someone says or if they’ll meet the deadline, you can follow a few steps that will make the process as smooth — and successful — as possible.

Build relationships. Your recommenders should know you well. Good letters of recommendation are always the outcome of solid relationships established long before an application due date.

Choose wisely. Pick individuals who can speak with familiarity and specificity to your scholarship, skills and personality. Have at least one person who can situate you in your academic field. If someone declines your request for a recommendation, take no for an answer.

Be the early bird. The professionals recommending you are busy people, so approach them early to give them enough time to write a thoughtful letter (4-6 weeks recommended).

Come prepared. Give your recommenders solid supporting materials to help them write: information about the program and school you are applying to; your Statement of Interest; your resumé; a writing sample; unofficial transcripts; any points you’d particularly like them to focus on; the addressee and deadline for the letter.

Follow up. Don’t be shy to check in about a week before the letter is due, and make sure to thank recommenders for their time once all is said and done. Also let them know the outcome of your application, successful or not. It’s another way to keep building the relationship.

Do I Need an Academic Supervisor?

Unless you’re choosing a coursework-only option, yes. But check with your program of choice to find out whether it generally assigns supervisors or whether you need to find one ahead of your application.

Because supervisors oversee your academic work, they should share your research interests. Take the time to ensure your chosen program has a person you would like to work with and that the sentiment is mutual.