Congratulations on your decision to become a teacher! It is one of the noblest and most rewarding professions you can aspire to become. If you want to become a fully certified teacher, you’ll need to earn your master’s degree, either in an educational field (curriculum development, educational technology, etc.) or in your individual discipline.
Applying to graduate school can seem like a daunting process, so below is a step-by-step, four-season guide to get you from that first sitting at the GRE all the way to your first day of classes.
Summer: Prep Work
Just about every grad school requires applicants to take one of the major standardized tests for graduate education. These include the GRE, MCAT, GMAT, LSAT or DAT, depending on which advanced degree you are pursuing. If you have not already sat for one of these exams, you must do it over the summer before the official application process begins.
A second item to cross off the to-do list over the summer is to email two or three faculty members and ask if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you. If they agree, send them a copy of your transcript as well as a basic student resume. The easier you make the task for them, the better recommendation you will receive. Summer is a great time to do this as many professors will have some down time and may be more willing to write one for you.
Fall: Time To Write
Look over each of the grad school program applications, and review the essay topics that each requires. One of the key components of your overall application will be the admissions essay, or personal statement. Some of the key components of a quality personal statement include a summary of your academic background, an explanation of why you want to teach and, of course, the reasons why you are applying to this particular school.
Spend plenty of time outlining, drafting and refining your essay, just as you would any other piece of academic writing. Once you are happy with it, show it to a trusted peer, willing professor or career counselor. Then comes the hard part — taking their advice.
An additional task for the fall is to send a copy of your official transcript to each school. The registrar’s office can assist you with this. Be sure to request that the transcript not be sent out until the fall semester’s grades have been added.
Winter: Go Time
Over the winter you’ll be officially applying to the graduate schools of your choice, which means it’s also time to start securing financial aid.
Fully complete all of the application forms for each program to which you wish to apply. Create a packet for each that includes your application form, transcripts, resume and personal statement. Scan all of this material if you do not already have digital copies. You never know when something will get misplaced. (Better safe than sorry.) Check in with your Admissions Counselor one last time to go over everything. Remember they are there for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure about anything.
One item to take care of before hitting send or placing your packet in the mail: Do not forget to include the application fee.
Once you have your current tax records prepared, you can officially apply for financial aid. You’ll need the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application to do this.
The majority of grad schools will send you a courtesy postcard letting you know they received your application. If you don’t receive one, contact the admissions office to make sure that your application has been received before the deadline.
Spring: Almost There
The final step on the road to graduate school is preparing for your admissions interview. Not all programs require this step, but for those that do, preparation is the key to making it a success. The purpose of the interview is not so much to demonstrate what you know — your transcript, resume and personal statement should have already done that — it is to show how you think on your feet and whether or not your personality will be a good fit for the school’s program. As such, your preparation should revolve around crafting authentic answers to the typical interview questions as well as coming up with a few of your own to ask.
The last step in this yearlong process (after celebrating your admittance, of course!) is to officially notify the schools that have accepted you whether or not you have decided to enroll in their program.