If you are a freshman reading this article, take a minute to think back all the way to your senior year of high school. Specifically, take the time to remember the process of applying to colleges. Now, obviously, the whole ordeal did not go too poorly for you, since you ended up here at Indiana University. Regardless, did thinking about college applications awaken some stressful memories? There is certainly a lot to when you’re applying to college: you have to make sure and do well on your SAT/ACT, put in the work to achieve a GPA that you’re happy with, participate in extracurricular activities to make your application stand out, and maybe even obtain recommendation letters from teachers.
Now, why do I bring all of this up? I’m a second semester senior in college who is currently applying to law school, and I am here to tell those of you who will also be applying for postgraduate studies that the application process doesn't go any smoother the second time around. In fact, I found it to be exponentially more stressful because the stakes are that much higher. However, that doesn't mean that there’s any reason to panic. Here are some helpful tips to make sure that you stay ahead of the curve on graduate admissions:
Growing accustomed to college life can take some time, but that is no reason to excuse yourself from campus life throughout your freshman year. Make sure to find something you’re passionate about and join a club or organization that pertains to that subject. Joining such a group early will give you the best chance to obtain a leadership position and show admissions officials your dedication. Remember: it’s quality of activities that counts, not quantity.
This is perhaps the most harped on piece of advice given to college freshmen, but that does’t make it any less true, especially for prospective graduate students. Even if you’re not struggling in your coursework, take the time to get your professors whenever possible. Many students don’t realize that doing well in a class does’t guarantee you a sterling recommendation by itself; professors want to be able to speak to your personal characteristics as well. Additionally, if a professor is familiar with your prospective career path, he or she presents a great opportunity for you to explore your prospects.
This was the biggest mistake that I made in the past year. Never assume that it is too early to at least familiarize yourself with the standardized test you will be taking to gain admission to graduate school, whether it be the GRE, LSAT, MCAT, or GMAT. Keep in mind that these tests were designed for the brightest students from around the country. Therefore, it can take a lot of time to become comfortable with some of the material.
Again, if it’s your freshman year you still have a lot of time, and you may not even be sure that graduate school is right for you. However, getting a head start on preparing can make the decision a lot easier in addition to saving you a lot of stress during your junior and senior years. Best of luck!