A couple weeks ago, I received my first acceptance into a MA program in Political Science! It was such a relief to know that my hard work during the applications period paid off. Because I’ve received an acceptance, I wanted to write about some of the things that helped me through the application process and that I think made my applications strong.
Getting into grad school is a very different process depending on what program you’re applying for, so take this advice with a grain of salt if you’re not applying to Political Science programs!
1. Build relationships with professors
For me, support from my professors was invaluable throughout the application process. Because I spent time developing relationships with professors, I was able to get strong reference letters. I also made sure to do independent research with these professors so they would be able to speak to my research potential.
Professors also helped me throughout the process by giving me lots of information about applying to programs and informally supporting me.
2. Clarify your research goals and reach out to professors
Before applying to grad school, I decided to map out a research project I wanted to study. I was then able to email professors at schools I was interested in applying to and ask them whether they’d be interested in supervising my research. Having their confirmation before I even applied to these programs definitely strengthened my application and is a great thing to do.
3. Get lots of people to read your statement of intent
For grad school apps you have to write a statement of intent explaining why you want to go to a particular program. I made sure to get lots of people to read my statement of intent after I wrote it; like friends, family, and my professors. Even though I put a lot of work into my statement of intent, getting fresh eyes on it allowed me to make important changes that I didn’t realize I needed to make. My professors had especially valuable insights into what a grad school committee would look for in an application.
4. Apply for funding
Finally, I took the time to apply to outside funding bodies. Lots of people don’t know that there are plenty of funding bodies and grants available for grad students, especially if you’re in a thesis-based program. For example, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council provides generous funding to many students across Canada. It’s a little extra work to apply, but grad schools generally prefer that you apply to outside funding bodies as well and it can make your education significantly more affordable.
Overall, applying to grad school is definitely a challenging process, but with the support of my friends, family, and professors and my own work to clarify my research goals, it was definitely a rewarding and fun process. Good luck to all those applying!