Top Tips to Ace Your Graduate School Application

You’re applying to graduate school, investing in yourself and taking the next step in achieving your educational and professional goals. Congratulations.

Whether you’re applying for a Master’s Degree, Master’s in Public Health (MPH), Master’s in Public Policy (MPP), Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), or PhD, the graduate admissions process can sometimes be unnecessarily confusing. (And, not to mention, stressful!)

That’s where we come in. As admissions deadlines loom, we want to share our top tips to make sure you’re putting your strongest grad school application forward.


Demonstrate your ‘fit’ with the program you’re applying to—that is, articulate how your background and goals align closely with the program’s mission, spirit, and coursework.

Remember, admissions committees are looking for students who they know will benefit academically and professionally from their programs, but who also bring something to the programs. Providing specific details on how your background relates to quantitative requirements and ‘signature’ lecture series, for instance, demonstrates to admissions readers your honest effort to learn about their programs as well as aligns your interests with what they have to offer.

Including specific details about, say, coursework or a recent faculty publication, demonstrates your familiarity with the program you’re applying to. That’s a signal of your enthusiasm and interest in joining a like-minded community of professionals and scholars, yet another way to cement your ‘fit.’

Graduate School Application


One way to find out more about your programs of interest? Reach out to the admissions office. You could ask, for instance, to be connected with a student who shares a similar research interest to yours.

Not only will you learn more than what’s posted on the program’s website, you’ll also have a unique and poignant detail to include in your personal statement. In a sentence that describes why you’re drawn to the program, you could include a phrase like, “When I spoke with [name of current student], I was happy to learn about the graduate program’s strong emphasis on…”

Take initiative to learn about the program and personalize your application as much as possible.


This is our specialty at Top Tier. As long as your GPA and test scores are in range for the programs you’re applying to, a strong personal statement can be the difference between rejection and acceptance, a partial scholarship and a full-ride.

A polished personal statement is a story. It should both intrigue the admissions committee and leave the committee feeling satisfied. Think of the statement like a fine pastry recipe: it’s one part describing how your background led you to where you are, one part why you’re capable of completing the program, and two parts how the program will help you achieve your long-term goals—all with a vigorous sprinkle of enthusiasm and interest.

Communicating these components gives admissions readers less reason to defer or reject you, and more reason to accept you.


Letters of recommendation are one of the first items admissions committees review during the application process. A strong recommendation letter should serve three goals:

  • Lend credibility and legitimacy to your accomplishments.
  • Provide complementary insight into your character, apart from what you’ve written in your personal statement.
  • Frame and clarify your academic and professional goals.

Select recommenders who can help fulfill these objectives, and with whom you have a strong relationship. Opt for lesser-known recommenders who can lend deep insight into your academic or professional work, rather than higher-profile recommenders who may have little to no knowledge of your background.

The goal here is to supplement your personal statement with credible evidence of your accomplishments and character.

Congrats again on applying to graduate school. Looking for more help as you navigate the graduate admissions process? We’re happy to help!

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