Common Graduate School Application Mistakes to Avoid

Applying to graduate school is not an easy process. On top of the recommendations, transcripts, test scores and other materials needed to complete an application, mistakes are bound to be made. Many applications to graduate schools have been turned down because they contained simple, common mistakes—even though candidate was promising.

A graduate school expects a high standard of intelligence, diligence and professionalism from applicants. Those that don’t demonstrate the necessary qualities will miss out on programs that otherwise would have accepted them. Use the tips in this post to ensure that you are remembered by admissions counselors for your credentials, skills and personality, and not careless errors.

General Application Mistakes:

  • Copying responses from one school’s application to another and ignoring critical prompts or instructions, or worse yet, leaving in a reference to another school.
  • Showing a lack of perspective about negatives (e.g., failed classes, no participation in extracurricular activities). Be honest and address problems in a mature manner.
  • Bragging (put your best foot forward, but be humble).
  • Not taking time to think about, and clearly articulate, why you want to attend a particular program, and what your ultimate goals are.

Common Essay Mistakes:

  • Jamming your personal statement with big words and complex phrasing instead of writing clearly.
  • Summarizing your résumé instead of sharing your personality and career objectives.
  • Generalizing instead of highlighting meaningful specifics.
  • Writing about sensitive or controversial issues instead of focusing on topics with a broader appeal.
  • Making careless grammar and spelling errors (more on this below).

Proofreading Tips
Careless errors and typos are the quickest way to earn a negative mark from admissions officials. If your application package contains even a single grammatical error, it could harm your chance of admission. Errors like these make it seem as though you don’t pay attention to detail, or didn’t take the application process seriously, and both perceptions must be avoided at all costs.

The best way to avoid errors in your application is to take a break after completing each section, and review your responses and information out loud, slowly, in a quiet room. Don’t rush, and read what you have written with a critical eye. Be sure to proofread your essay for proper English use and adhere to the required essay length.

If there is one error you cannot make, it is to misspell the name of the school. Reference the school website and application materials for spelling, and also pay attention to things like whether the school calls itself the “University of ____” or “_____ University.”

If you only get one thing right, let it be the school name.

For more information on the @WashULaw application process, please click here.