Category: Applications (page 1 of 3)

What Are the Application Requirements?

Working in admissions, you start to develop answers to common questions. “What’s the cut-off GPA?” “Is my background a good fit for this program?” “Is the GRE required?” But the most common question, the one I get the most, is “What are the application requirements?”

Now, you might be thinking that I’m going to spend this blog post laying out the different programs’ application requirements and what you should be preparing when you’re getting ready to apply. Maybe even some tips and tricks for how to strengthen those application requirements, or how to stay organized when you’re applying. But you’d be wrong! You can always find application requirements on our website, but today, I’m going to flip the script and ask you to think about what your application requirements are.

Huh?

Okay, here’s what I mean. When I was applying to graduate school, I applied to eleven programs (for those of you out there wondering, that’s way too many). Looking back, I’m still not sure why I put myself through that, but I think most of it came down to two things: first, I was terrified that no school would accept me, and I didn’t really have a plan for what I would do if I didn’t go to graduate school at that time, and second, I had no real idea what I was looking for. Yes, I knew I wanted a master’s in English Literature, yes, there were some areas that I was interested in living, but other than that, I really had no clue.

I share all of this as a cautionary tale: don’t be like me! Before you start applying to graduate schools, take a minute to think about what your requirements are. If you’re not sure, here are some things that it might be helpful to consider:

  • Do I have the opportunity to teach or work as a research assistant? If you intend to go into academia or research, this should be a really important question for you. Participating in research and teaching while in graduate school is a great way to start an academic career and build experience. Notice, however, that I also said “opportunity”: at Heller, although many of our students do work as research assistants and teaching assistants, it’s not considered part of your funding and thus, you’re not obligated to do it. If you know you don’t intend to stay in academia or teaching, I would recommend being cautious of schools that do require it: your time might be better spent in an internship or part-time job building skills that translate more directly to your future career.
  • Are there clubs, organizations, or leadership activities that interest and excite me? I won’t lie to you, this is probably a bigger factor in undergraduate programs, but you still shouldn’t discount it when you’re applying to graduate school. Especially if you’ll be coming from out-of-state or don’t have a support group already in the area, joining extracurriculars is a good way to network and make new friends outside of your program. Leadership experience (even if it’s for a club or organization) can also be helpful once you’ve graduated to put on your resume or as an example to draw upon during interviews. Heller and Brandeis clubs and working groups include Black Graduate Student Association, Brandeis Graduate Outdoors Club, Brandeis University Africa Forum, Disability Working Group, Gender Working Group, Graduate Student Association, Heller Myanmar/Burma Advocacy Group, Heller Startup Challenge, Heller Student Association, Impact Investing and ESG Working Group, Net Impact (Heller Chapter), Open Air Journal and the Racial Equity Working Group.
  • What kinds of access will I have to professors and other outside resources? This question is going to be different for every person. Some students do best in close-knit environments where they get a lot of individualized attention, while others are happy to keep their head down and never go to office hours. Personally, I think that Heller’s faculty to student ratio provides for a really close community and there are a lot of benefits to that (the faculty and research staff to student ratio is roughly 1:6!), but some students might be happier in larger programs where the faculty/student ratio is higher.

These may not be important factors for you. You may care more about working with a specific professor, with not having to write a thesis at the end of your program, living in a certain area or in a big city, taking classes online, a great campus gym… the list goes on and on. But whatever your priorities are, make sure that you’re not only focusing on what schools might let you in: think carefully about what you want the next years to look like.

 

 

What is the Quantitative and Analytical Statement?

First of all, let me start by saying that if you’re a master’s program applicant reading this post and panicking, thinking, “What the heck is a Quantitative and Analytical Statement?”, worry not. This post is just for the PhD applicants out there.

If you’ve applied to the the PhD program before and are reapplying again this year, you might have noticed that there’s a new portion to our application, the Quantitative and Analytical Statement. Today, I’m going to walk you through why we’ve added this component, what information you should include, and how you can use the statement to your advantage on our application.

Why did we add this component? If you applied for the Fall 2021 or Fall 2022 entry term, it’s likely that you noticed that we’ve made the GRE optional for the last two years due to COVID-19. Students had the choice to submit GRE scores if they had already taken them, but if you weren’t able to sit for the test, you weren’t required to report them. For some students, not being able to take the GRE greatly helped their application, but for others, not taking it had a disadvantage: students who had been out of school for years and not working in an academic or research setting had no way to demonstrate that they had the requisite quantitative skills to make them successful in a research based program. Similarly, faculty members reviewing the application were left in the dark as to some students’ current quantitative ability: for example, would it be better to take an applicant who had great grades in their quantitative classes more than fifteen years ago, or an applicant with average grades three years ago? Who would be better equipped to take our required quantitative courses? And thus… the Quantitative and Analytical Statement was born

What information should I include? Although many of our students and faculty do perform a great deal of qualitative research, many of our courses teach students the skills to conduct quantitative and mixed methods research. In your first semester, for example, you’ll take both Introduction to Stata Programming and Data Management (which covers creating simple datasets and accessing existing ones, modifying and managing data, and performing simple statistical analysis), Research Methods (which is designed to prepare students in the Heller PhD program to be able to understand and interpret empirical research and to design their own studies), and Applied Regression Analysis (which teaches students about assumptions underlying the regression model, how to test for violations, and corrections that can be made when violations are found).  So in your Quantitative and Analytical Statement, you have the chance to demonstrate that you have the background to succeed in those classes. So how do you do this? I’d like to think our website lays it out pretty succinctly, so I’ll quote here: “In the Quantitative and Analytical Statement, applicants should detail why they believe they would be successful in a research-based program; i.e., quantitative classes you have taken, research experience you hold, peer-reviewed research papers you have authored or collaborated on, statistical software you are familiar with and the projects you have utilized statistical software for, etc. Experience with qualitative data analysis and software may be noted but should not be the focus of the statement.” In short, in the average of your GRE scores, your Quantitative and Analytical statement is an opportunity to demonstrate that you have the ability to succeed in our program that might not otherwise be demonstrated or highlighted in your application.

How can I use this to my advantage? Glad you asked. First, it works to your advantage because now you have a choice. If you have the ability to sit for GREs, you can now choose whether you want to submit them after you see your scores. If you have high GRE scores, particularly in the Quantitative section, I would really encourage you to submit your GRE scores. If, however, for whatever reason (you’re not able to take the test, you’re not a good test taker), you don’t get the scores you had hoped for in the Quantitative section, this QAS gives you the opportunity to highlight the parts of their application that would make them a good candidate. We already review your application holistically, but the QAS lets you lay out the case for your success. Let’s talk about an example: if you know that you don’t have strong  GRE scores but still believe that you could succeed in the program, your QAS could talk about the high grades in the quantitative classes like statistics or economics you took in your master’s program. You could talk about your five years of work experience in a research lab, and the research projects using and analyzing national data sets that you’ve worked on while at that position. You could talk about how you used Stata in your previous position, or your experience interning for a politician that required you to summarizing the methodology of findings from previous studies and synthesizing and communicating the results of data analysis .  And just like that, your application would demonstrate that despite the weakness of your GRE scores, you are perfectly capable of succeeding in a quantitative research program.

I hope that helps answer some of your questions about this requirement, and we look forward to reviewing your application.!

The Fall 2023 Application is Open!

We’re excited to announce that the Heller application for Fall 2023 entry is now open! Today, I’ve compiled some frequently asked questions from students and included a list of resources

FAQS

What is required for the application?

The application is designed to be accessible and is comprised of the following elements:

  • The Heller online application, including biographic information, education history, and work history
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume or CV
  • Three Letters of Recommendation (two for Social Impact MBA applicants)
  • PhD and SID/WGS joint program only: Writing Sample
  • International students only: TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test results, unless you qualify for an English Proficiency Waiver
  • The MPP, MBA, and PhD programs have extended their test-optional policy through the Fall 2023 admission cycle due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PhD applicants who do not submit GRE scores must submit a quantitative statement. You can find more information on the quantitative statement on the PhD Application Requirements web page under “Standardized Test Scores”.

You can view a full list of requirements for each program on our “How to Apply” page. 

What are the deadlines for the application?

You can find deadlines for each program on our “Application Deadlines” page.

How can I start an application?

I would recommend starting by reviewing the “How to Apply” page for your program of interest before beginning an application.

What are you looking for in an application?

The best way to find out what each program is looking for is by connecting with one of our admissions representatives, but you can also read our blog series, “Which Program is Right for Me?”

Resource List

You Ask, I Answer: What’s the Minimum GPA?

I’m continuing the “You Ask, I Answer” series where I respond to the most common questions I get from prospective or admitted students (you can find a previous You Ask, I Answer: When Should I Start Graduate School? here and You Ask, I Answer: How to Email the Admissions Office here). If you have a question you’d like me to answer in the next post, be sure to comment below!

This is definitely one of the top two questions that I and my other colleagues in Heller Admissions get (the other one would be “What’s the minimum GRE or GMAT score?”). As I explained in an earlier post, What Does “Holistic Review Process” Mean, Anyway?, this is a hold-out from a mostly-bygone time, when colleges would use “cut scores” (in which colleges wouldn’t consider applications from students with lower than a certain SAT score or GPA) to make the first “cuts” during application reading season. This practice is certainly less widespread now, but still the question persists; I think because students want some sense of certainty about whether or not they have a chance of getting in.

Unfortunately… it really does depend.

But, in the interest of transparency, I’m here today to share with you a little about what we look at when we’re looking at your transcripts, because contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about your GPA.

Challenging yourself. Let’s say two students apply with the exact same cumulative GPA from the exact same college, and majored in the exact same thing. If we were only looking at GPAs, we would hold these students in equal regard, but that’s not always the case. We also look at the courses the students took to determine how we should consider those grades. If Student A was using their electives to take classes like Astronomy, the Global History of Capitalism, and Supply Chain Analytics, and Student B was using their electives to take Tree Climbing, South Park and Contemporary Social Issues, and The Art of Walking (all real classes offered at schools across the US, by the way!), well, we’re probably going to give Student A an edge. That’s not to say that you can’t take a course that’s a little off-beat or pursue a niche subject that you’re genuinely interested in, but we want to see that, for the most part, you used your time in college (or your first graduate school degree, if that’s the case) to challenge and better yourself.

Relevancy of coursework. Don’t get me wrong, students at Heller come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some of the most common include public health, sociology, education, international relations, history, law, economics, social work, anthropology and psychology, but we have students that majored in English, biology, art history, journalism, chemistry, studio arts… the list goes on and on. But with that being said, we want to make sure students are set up to succeed in our programs. For example, if a student were applying to our PhD program, we’d want to see high grades in courses like economics, statistics, research methods, or some other class along those lines; if they received an A in all their other classes, but low scores in those, it might be a cause for concern. Especially in our more quantitative programs, we’ll want to make sure that students have the relevant backgrounds that they need to succeed at Heller, although that can come in many different forms, of which coursework is just one.

Trends or growth. You probably heard this when you were applying to college, but application readers do look at trends in your grades. A difficult first semester in college isn’t likely to tank your chances of getting into graduate school, nor is a tough semester with extenuating circumstances explained in your statement of purpose. What may be more concerning, however, is a student that starts off strong whose grades gradually go down, which might suggest that they struggled with more advanced course material.

If, after reading this, you take a look at your transcript, and you find that there are some yellow flags in your transcript, all is not lost! As I explained in my earlier blog post about holistic admissions, there are opportunities to course correct. It’s probably too late to get a new job to put on your resume, but you can decide who your recommenders are going to be, what to highlight on your resume, and what to write in your statement of purpose. Addressing these issues in your statement of purpose, or demonstrating that you have those skills in other ways, are easy ways to provide context to those grades.

New Years Resolutions and Your Statement of Purpose

It’s almost that time again: that time of year when, against all evidence to the contrary, we promise ourselves that this time it’ll be different. That this year will be the year we a) start working out more, b) give up a bad habit, c) keep our kitchen cabinets organized, d) stop buying stuff we don’t need or e) all of the above. If you’re anything like me, you spend all of December making promises to yourself, all of January being good, and then all of February wondering how it all went wrong.

You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with your statement of purpose, so here it is: as someone who would really like to be better at New Year’s resolutions, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about goals, and how to set a good goal, and a lot of what makes a good goal also makes a good statement of purpose. You’ve probably heard that you should be setting S.M.A.R.T goals (specific, measurable, attainable/achievable, relevant, and time-bound), but have you ever thought about writing a S.M.A.R.T. Statement of Purpose? For example, instead of writing, “Gaining a master’s degree from Heller will help me to achieve my goals” why not get more specific by telling us how it will help you, or what those goals are? Or, instead of saying, “Ever since I was young, I have wanted to help people” why don’t you make that more measurable by saying how you want to help people, or which people/populations?

When you look through your statement of purpose, I encourage you to circle the places when you lean into generalities and apply a “S.M.A.R.T. check”; ask yourself in these places, can I be more specific? Can I make this more measurable? Can I show why I believe this is attainable or relevant? Can I allude to the time frame of this (i.e., when do you hope to achieve a certain milestone)? By asking yourself those questions, you transform your statement of purpose from a wishy-washy statement of your hopes and dreams, to an action plan that your reader can get behind. We know that you want to change the world– that’s why you’re applying to Heller! Your job for your Statement of Purpose is to tell us how… remember, be S.M.A.R.T. about it!

Pushing through Writer’s Block on your Statement of Purpose

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

When I wrote my statement of purpose for my Heller application, I was at first ambivalent and nervous. In general, I procrastinate – and to be fair, I usually use the time productively, to clean my room, or work on another assignment/project. But when I check my list and notice the only thing left is the one thing I have been avoiding, I know it’s time to hunker down and get to business. So when the time came to write my statement of purpose, the kitchen was already sparkling and my holiday gift shopping complete. When I sat down and started to write, I realized that while the grammar and structure would need work, the passion and drive were easy to document. The words began to flow because they reflected exactly why I was applying to graduate school. I had spent years in the field honing in on a particular interest area and when given the chance to verbalize why I wanted to obtain a public policy degree, the words were already there.

We are drawn to this work for a reason and we choose to take time out of the workforce to better equip ourselves to make a difference. Do not discredit your rationale, your drive, and your commitment to social justice – that is what has brought you to this page and can carry you through the application process.

Here are some tips and tricks if you’re feeling stuck:

  1. It’s okay to take breaks while writing. Walk around, get a snack, close the computer and come back to it the next day. Go at a pace that works for you and do not let frustration or pressure limit you.
  2. Have someone read over your application and personal statement. Regardless of your writing comprehension, a second pair of eyes always helps. Additionally, push your reader for constructive criticism – no piece is perfect and there must be at least one thing that could use revision.
  3. Do not try to write towards an assumed perspective – this is your chance to express yourself and your unique view … that’s exactly what we want to see!
  4. You are allowed to recycle your statement of purpose. While we hope you choose to apply to Heller, we know that we may not be the only school on your list. Do not hesitate to use portions of other statements while constructing your essay. But make sure to include why Heller is the right fit for you. Your reasons for applying to schools may be similar – but why us specifically? Show you’ve done your homework and share what makes Heller stand out for you.

Applying to Graduate School as a First Generation Graduate Student

Ronunique Clark headshot

Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Applying to graduate school as a first generation graduate student is not always as easy as it may seem.  When I started my senior year at Boston University, I was on the pathway to become a law student. I spent all summer and most of fall prepping for the LSAT, deciding what schools I wanted to apply to, endless amount of GroupMe messages… it was all super draining.  Yet when it came time to write my personal statement I could not find the words to say why I wanted to be an attorney. Was it because I wanted to help my community? Was it because I will be financially stable? What was it? I spent the last  two years prepping for my journey into law school and now I can’t even say why I want to be there. I think I was turned off by the law school process. I did not understand the purpose of the LSAT when all the 1L and 2L says the LSAT has barely anything to do with your classes. I did not understand why I would choose to sit in a class discussing outdated laws. I did not understand the process for the bar exam. It all just seemed like a rigged system to me and I no longer wanted any part.

Once I officially decided that law school was not for me, I was right back to the drawing board. Well, what am I supposed to do now? I was set to graduate from BU in less than 5 months and I just shut the door on what I thought was my dream career. I remember speaking with a old supervisor of mine about my concerns: I told her I knew I wanted to help people but I wanted to make a everlasting impact, I wanted to be within the community making the changes they want to see, and that I was thinking of applying for a MPP or MPA degree. She told me it sounded like a great idea and if she could had gotten her MPP or MPA instead of law school she would have 1000% done it. She said to me, “I did not want to study law I wanted to learn the legal and government system to make it better.” From that statement alone I began thinking some more about my personal goals and the field I saw myself in. Once that became clear, I began my search for masters programs.  I had few goals for this new journey: find a master’s program that did not require the GRE (hey, what can I say I was burnt out from standardized testing), only apply for 5 schools, and secure a scholarship offer.

One thing I forgot about once I narrowed down my choices and began my application process was that in undergrad I had way more assistance. I had more time to polish my personal statement, I had more time to search for schools, I had more time to submit scholarship applications, and on top of that, I was chosen as a Posse Scholar, and they pretty much do all the work for you– all I did was show up to an interview and a few meetings. I was on a time crunch submitting grad school apps, finding recommenders, and submitting scholarship essays. Not only did I have to deal with being on a time crunch, I had to deal with the most hated question of college students, “What are you doing after you graduate?” I would answer, “Grad school” only to receive responses such as, “Why would you want to go to grad school right after undergrad?”, “What do you plan to do with a second degree?”, questions I honestly did not have the answer to and probably still don’t have the answer to.  However, my mentor, my posse, my friends, and my family where all very supportive of my decision to get my masters. They always wanted me to do what made me happy and I can not thank them enough for the support. Friends offered to read my statement of purposes, people always asked for updates and when acceptances letters came in I was showered with words of wisdom and encouragement. Most of my family never went to college and sometimes its hard for them to understand the challenges I have to face, but they never doubted my ability to finish strong. One piece of advice I want to give a first generation graduate student is that breaking generational curses starts with you and even when the road looks foggy, trust the light is always at the end.

Things to think about when choosing a graduate program (that might not be immediately obvious)

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

As I near the end of my time at Heller, I’ve reflected a bit on the criteria I had when I was applying to and choosing graduate programs, and on how my impressions of Heller have played out during my time here. I wanted to share a few criteria that I considered and discuss in a bit more detail how these factored into my search.

Faculty background

I was drawn to the fact that many Heller faculty serve as researchers in various centers and institutes here on campus, while many also have experience working in federal or state agencies related to health, labor, education, and other social policy areas. Knowing that core courses would be taught by faculty with backgrounds specific to social policy, and with policy-relevant work and research experience regardless of their formal academic training, was a big priority for me, and made Heller a compelling option. My primary interests are education and workforce development, and I’ve gotten to work with faculty who have served in the Department of Labor and managed national job training non-profit organizations. Heller has enabled me to delve deeply into topics of interest in both required classes and electives.

Geography and professional connections

My sense is that many policy schools excel at connecting students to jobs in Washington, DC, as well as in the area where they are located. This motivated me to consider Heller, since I am from the Boston area and interested in opportunities here, as well as DC, where there are of course more jobs in the federal government and in national-level policy organizations. That said, Heller places students around the country and abroad, which I viewed as an additional advantage to attending graduate school here – I’ve made connections with peers and with faculty who themselves have connections in many different locations.

Peer interests

In addition to faculty at Heller tending to have direct professional and research experience in social policy fields, the fact that my peers are passionate about social justice and social policy has been a big advantage of attending Heller as well. While Heller is not homogenous, there is definitely a sense of shared values and a commitment to social change. This was a powerful motivator in my decision to attend Heller, and the experience that students have in non-profit, government, and social impact settings has really enriched class discussions.

Flexibility and options

While I entered Heller in the MPP program, I was interested in adding a dual MBA, and knew that doing so would only add about 6 months to my time in graduate school due to the accelerated schedule of the MBA program. Knowing that there were options like this available also informed my decision to attend Heller. In general, the culture here is to help students figure out how to accomplish what it is they want to do. I am glad that my impressions of this culture when I decided on Heller have been proven correct by my 2.5 years here!

5 Ways to Manage Anxiety during the Admissions Process… And One Way to Prevent It

In case you’ve missed it: it’s officially fall. On my drive here, I was treated to the sight of beautiful gold and red leaves along the banks of the Charles River, I’m wearing one of my favorite sweaters today, and the applications to Heller’s program are beginning to come in. That’s right: it’s admissions season again! Now, don’t panic: you still have plenty of time (the deadline for the PhD application is December 15th, and the first round deadline for most of our master’s programs isn’t until January 15th), but this is certainly the time when most students are starting to narrow down their lists of schools to apply to and begin the application process. I’ve written before in my post The Art of Waiting about the anxiety that comes after you’ve submitted the application, but as a recent conversation with my younger cousin (who is starting the undergraduate application process now) reminded me, the application process itself can also be a major source of anxiety for a lot of students. With that in mind, I want to share a few tips to manage your anxiety during this process and give you one tip to prevent it.

1. Channel your nervous energy. Have you been catching yourself refreshing your email for hours on end? Chewing your nails down to the quick? Tapping your foot so long it wears a hole in your carpet? While some people shut down when they’re anxious, other people find themselves absolutely bursting with energy. Find a way to redirect this energy, like taking a long walk while listening to a podcast or doing a quick work-out in your living room to let off some steam. You can also put that energy to a productive use by writing a thank you email to your recommenders or by engaging in some volunteer work (which will look great on any future graduate school or job applications).

2. Indulge in smart self-care. Self care doesn’t always look like giving yourself permission to eat that entire gallon of ice cream (although sometimes it certainly can!). Take this time to indulge in self-care that actually makes you feel good and energized afterwards, like taking a bath, meditating, calling a loved one, getting coffee or dinner with a close friend, treating yourself to a healthy new recipe (whether you make it yourself or order take-out), or taking yourself out on a movie or museum date.

3. Put things in perspective. Imagine the absolute worst-case scenario: you’re rejected from every single school you’ve applied to. What then? I don’t mean to downplay the feelings of rejection and sadness that receiving a denial can induce, but at the end of the day, it truly isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t even mean you won’t ever go to grad school. Sometimes when you think the universe is saying “No”, it’s really only saying “Not yet”. You can spend the next year making sure you’re prepared for the next round of applications, and you’ll have a head-start on everyone applying for the first time.

4. Take break from social media. There’s nothing worse than taking a break from relentlessly refreshing your email only to go onto Instagram and be immediately confronted with someone else’s post about their acceptance. Especially if a lot of people in your immediate circle are going through the same process as you, consider taking a break, or at least setting limitations for yourself when it comes to social media. By the way, this goes double for sites like GradCafe, CollegeConfidential, or Reddit discussion boards. Remember: everyone’s situation is unique, and trying to “hack” the application process by following the tips that worked for a stranger on the internet is unlikely to actually pay off.

5. Put an embargo on app-talk. With the holidays coming up, the chances of the Thanksgiving table conversation turning to graduate schools and applications is at an all time high, and your great-aunt is probably just dying to tell you about how her friend’s sister’s son-in-law got into every single graduate school with a full ride. Get out ahead of it by giving a quick update, setting a boundary, and moving the conversation along (“There are a couple of schools I’m excited to hear back from, but I don’t want to talk about graduate school when I have all this delicious food in front of me. Aunt Betsy, tell me more about how your vacation was?”). The same tip goes for your friends, if they’re in the same boat as you. Set aside ten minutes at the top of the gathering to compare notes, and then change the subject.

BONUS: Give yourself enough time. There’s nothing more anxiety producing than feeling like you don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do. Make a plan early to organize your time, and stick to it. If you break down what you need to do into simple, manageable steps and give yourself a workable timeline to complete it, things will feel a lot less overwhelming.

You Ask, I Answer: How to Email the Admissions Office

I’m continuing the “You Ask, I Answer” series where I respond to the most common questions I get from prospective or admitted students (you can find a previous You Ask, I Answer: When Should I Start Graduate School? here). If you have a question you’d like me to answer in the next post, be sure to comment below!

To be honest, this actually isn’t a question that I get from prospective students too often, but at graduate fairs, students often mention that although they have the desire to reach out to admissions contacts, they aren’t sure how, or feel awkward or nervous about contacting admissions personnel directly. Which I totally get! When you’re writing a message to someone in an admissions office, you should think of your email as serving multiple purposes. First and foremost, you’re trying to get an answer to a question you have, either about the program or the application process. That should be what the content of the email is focused on. But secondly, you’re also trying to make a good first impression on the people who will be involved in your application process. This doesn’t mean that you should re-iterate the highlights of your application to demonstrate why you’d be a good fit for the program, but it does mean that throughout your email, you should be making an effort to show that you’re interested in the program, you’ve done your research, and you’re a clear communicator. Let’s take a look at a (fictional) email from a prospective student and then talk about what the student could have done better:

To: AdmissionsContact1@college.edu, AdmissionsContact2@college.edu, ProgramManager1@college.edu, DeanOfCollege1@college.edu

From: FictionalStudent@gmail.com

Subject: questions

Message:

hey ProgramManager3,

,my name is Fictional Student and i want to ask some questions about the mpp porgram ur school. i graduated 1st in my class in fictionalprogram at fictionalschool with a GPA of 3.76. since then, i worked at fictionalcompany for 4 yrs as a fictionaljobtitle, where i had fictionalresponsibilities. then i got a job at fictionalcompany2, where i works as a fictionaljobtitle2, which has the additional responsibilities of managing people. i also volunteer as a volunteerposition, and in my spare time i like to read and play music. but now i’m interested in advancing my education threw youre mpp program  bc i want to make a difference in the world. can u tell me when the deadline to apply to the program is??

thanks, Fictional Student”

You can probably tell that this email probably wouldn’t make the best first impression, but what could FictionalStudent have done better? First, they could have looked up the person in the admissions office that handles the program that they’re interested in and emailed that person (and only that person!). Sometimes students email multiple people in the hopes of getting an answer to their question, but it actually can backfire and create confusion among staff, even resulting in students not getting a reply because everyone on the email assumes that someone else will take care of the student’s question. Next problem? The tone is very informal, especially the text-speak. This doesn’t mean that you have to write in an overly formal way, but you should aim to write as a slightly more polished version of yourself, the same tone that you would use if you were emailing your boss or someone you have a job interview with. In addition to the too-casual tone, FictionalStudent also didn’t remember to proofread their email; a single typo isn’t going to ruin your chances of getting accepted to the program, but an email riddled with spelling and grammar errors definitely isn’t going to make the best impression.

Those are the more obvious errors, but I’d also add two more that may not be so obvious. First, the student is including information about themselves that isn’t relevant to their question and will most likely be repeated in their application. Think of it this way: your application is your opportunity to share more about yourself with the admissions committee, but when you’re emailing someone in admissions, that’s your opportunity for the school to share more about itself with you. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include any information about yourself (in fact, there are a lot of instances where you’ll need to include information about your background and interests), but try to keep the content of your message focused on the question you have and include only the information that’s relevant. Secondly, the student asked a question that can be very easily found on the website. I’m not saying that you have to make sure you scour a school’s webpage before you email someone in admissions, but things like deadlines and application requirements are almost always on a school’s website. Sending an email asking for something that’s featured prominently gives the impression that you haven’t taken the time or the effort to do your research. Let’s end with a corrected email that’s sure to make a good first impression:

To: AdmissionsContact1@college.edu

From: FictionalStudent@gmail.com

Subject: Questions about Submitting Test Scores

Message:

Dear AdmissionsContact,

I hope you’re doing well! I’m Fictional Student and I’m currently applying to the MPP program at your school. While reviewing admissions website, I saw that the GRE requirement is waived for students applying to the MPP program for the Fall 2022 semester. I have already taken the GRE, and I’m considering whether or not to submit test scores as a part of my application. Would you be able to tell me how the GRE is used when evaluating a students application, or what the average scores are for successful applicants? Any guidance you could provide would be very appreciated.

Thank you, Fictional Student”

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