Tips for Applying to Graduate Degree Programs

July 14, 2022

A prospective graduate student works in an outdoor setting.

Throughout your life, you may experience many events that throw you off the path of reaching your educational goals. There may be unexpected career changes, family crises, natural disaster events or even admissions requirements that block you from pursuing a graduate degree. Whatever your circumstances, the University of Arkansas offers online degree programs with flexible paths to achieving your academic goals. If you find yourself thinking you do not meet the admissions requirements, start with small steps that help you reach your goals.


Tip #1: View Your Transcripts

Many academic institutions require a report of your previous academic history in the form of a transcript. You may feel trepidation in remembering prior academic performance or worry because you have not viewed your transcript for a long time. Eliminate the stressful feelings by being informed of the information on your transcript.

  • Request your transcripts for each college or university you attended. Visit their website or contact their registrar’s office for information on how to obtain your transcript.
  • Know your GPA by reviewing the cumulative GPA presented on each and ensuring the information is accurate.
  • Check for transfer credit courses that may apply to your program of interest (and shorten the time needed to complete your degree). Transfer credit policies vary by institution, so be sure to know the policy for each school you are interested in. View the degree requirements that include transfer credit policies for master’s degrees and doctoral degrees at the U of A for more information.


Tip #2: Update Your Resume

Resumes showcase your work experience, career achievements, and skills learned over the course of your career. They provide space for you to share your future goals and speak to your interests. You will need to present an up-to-date resume to best support your academic applications.

  • Reflect on your career history and compile a timeline of previous positions and the various work assignments of each. Find ways to link work assignments and achievements to your academic goals.
  • Review sample resumes for ideas on how to organize your resume. The Career Development Center offers an excellent resource on how to build a great resume that includes sample resumes across multiple academic and career fields.
  • Ask a peer or mentor to review your resume to gain helpful feedback.


Tip #3: Craft a Statement of Purpose

What is a statement of purpose? It’s an essay that details your academic and career goals as well as what you hope to achieve by completing a degree program. Perhaps you do not consider yourself to be a good writer or do not know how to organize your thoughts into a compelling narrative. Taking time to draft and review a statement of purpose will help you improve your writing and be clear about your future goals and expectations.

  • Understand the guidelines of the writing assignment. You may be required to write within a word limit, answer a specific question, choose from a list of questions, or respond to a prompt.
  • Utilize helpful resources to help you with the writing process. Check out this article from the Student Success Center on writing a personal statement for graduate school.
  • Practice writing a statement of purpose to become more comfortable telling your story.


Tip #4: Prepare for the GRE/GMAT Examination

Testing is an ongoing tradition of academic institutions. The Graduate Record Examinations or Graduate Management Admissions Test scores are commonly used admission criteria as they broadly assess a graduate school candidate’s critical thinking, analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning skills. As you walk along the path of education, put your best foot forward by preparing for these exams.


Tip #5: Build a List of Professional Recommendations

While good grades tell one part of your academic story, colleges and universities are seeking to find out more about applicants through the voices of references and letters of recommendation. Common recommenders include current and past professors, managers and community group leaders. It is great for these people to write complimentary statements about you and even better if they give specific examples of your accomplishments in their recommendations. If you experience sudden panic or feelings of disappointment in not immediately knowing who to ask to be a reference for you, think of how you can grow your network and make connections instead.

  • Find a mentor through work or a career development program. Aim to build a professional relationship with someone that can speak to your achievements and strengths. If you need guidance on navigating the mentor/mentee relationship, read this article on how to make the most of mentoring.
  • Join a community group that needs volunteers or leaders. Take advantage of an opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills and involvement in areas that matter to you.

The path to reaching your educational goals has challenges; that is a fact. Whatever your circumstances, find ways to take small steps in the direction of achieving your educational goals. For each step you take, reward yourself in growing confidence that you will attain your goals. A few additional resources are listed below to help you gather more information as you continue your journey:

Photo of Chrystal Thomas

Chrystal Thomas

Recruiter for Online Programs

Chrystal Thomas is a recruiter for online programs for the Global Campus at the University of Arkansas. An interest in the experiences of students has led to working in the higher education sector, where her hope is to help students find paths to achieve their goals. She can be reached at

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