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The Application Process

Graduate Program applications are usually more complex than what you put together to apply to Cal State Fullerton as an undergraduate.  Each school will want a variety of information to determine if you are a good candidate for their program.  Graduate programs want to make sure that accepted students are well prepared and will be successful in meeting the demands of graduate work. 

Putting together a strong application package takes energy and time. Also entry into graduate school is competitive, so not everyone who applies will be accepted.  However, our strong students are well prepared and usually do gain placement in their desired graduate programs.  You’ll want to put together a thoughtful package that highlights your unique strengths and abilities.  Hence, whenever possible, start early on your applications.  

  • Application due dates:

    Applications are typically due early in the fall or early spring semester BEFORE the fall that the graduate program begins. Hence, if you want to start graduate school the year immediately following graduation from the Human Services Department, you’ll need to apply during the fall or spring of your senior year. Some schools do allow you to apply in fall for the following spring semester. Visit each school's website to find out relevant deadlines.

  • Fees for Applying:

    Usually it cost money to apply. Fees vary cost somewhere around $60 per program application. Sometimes fees may be waived based on financial need. Visit each program's website to find out details.

  • Personal Statements:

    Typically, programs want to get a sense of who you are as a person, what your goals are and your level of preparation. They'll be specifically interested in your personality, level of maturity, why you are interested in the field, and your motivation for entry into graduate work. Programs want to admit students who match well with the program (i.e. are interested in learning about what the program will offer) and will succeed in their program (will work well with others and be academically and experientially prepared to do well in the program). Thus, most programs require one or more essays in which you will write about yourself. This is your chance to show who you are as a person, share your accomplishments, and share what makes you a good candidate for succeeding both in their program and in your chosen field.

    Some programs will have specific questions or areas they want addressed in your statements. Be sure to tailor each statement for each program.

    Strong personal statements usually take several rounds of drafts and revisions to finalize. It is a good idea to start drafting your statements early. Show them to as many people as possible, and get as much feedback as possible.

    About.com advice on personal statements (note: this is a commercial site; we don’t necessarily endorse the products advertised here)

    Accept.com advice on personal statements  (note: this is a commercial site; we don’t necessarily endorse the services offered here)

    Advice from UC Berkeley career center on personal statements

  • Letters of Recommendation:

    You'll need to gather 2-4 letters of recommendation from instructors, supervisors, or other mentors who know you well and can say good things about you. The best letters reflect strong and positive relationships that you have developed over time. When letter writers know you well, they can speak meaningfully and convincingly about your strengths and the likelihood of you succeeding in any graduate program.

    Usually programs will provide a standard rating form for letter writers to fill out. Often times, letter writers will also draft a complete letter to be part of your application package.

    You'll need to ask potential letter writers whether they know you well enough and think highly enough of you to write you a helpful letter. It is wise to seek out letter writers early to give them amply time to write for you. Provide letter writers with any relevant information you want them to consider such as a draft of your personal statement or information about your GPA, completed forms such as required program forms and waivers of your rights to view letters (most programs will take a confidential letter more seriously than one that they know you will see), as well as any needed stamped and addressed envelopes. It is always a good idea to re-contact letter writers a week or so ahead of due dates to remind them about the letters.

  • GPA and Transcripts:

    To apply, you'll need to meet minimum GPA requirements. The higher your GPA, the stronger your application will be.  Competitive programs will have a large pool of students to choose from and will choose applicants who seem to be knowledgeable and successful at learning. Hence, keep your grades up in your classes.

    To apply, you'll need to provide copies of transcripts from colleges you have attending, including those from community colleges as well as CSUF (applying CSUF transcript here). There is often a fee and a time delay in ordering official transcripts, so plan ahead.

  • Advance Testing:

    Some programs will require you take additional tests to determine your level of knowledge and readiness for their program.  For example the GRE is a commonly required test. There are often fees for testing which is proctored by outside companies. You can prepare for these tests in advance by taking outside preparation courses, or studying on your own using relevant preparation materials. Often times, sample tests are available so that you can judge how you might score. You will need to meet minimum score requirements to be considered for the program. Higher scores are always better, and sometimes funding in graduate programs is awarded based in part on these test scores. If you have time, preparing by studying in advance makes good sense.

  • Interviews:

    Some programs screen candidates and invite the most promising ones to come visit for an interview.  Interviews may be in person individually or in group format and may also be on the phone.

    To prepare, it is wise to practice ahead of time with a friend or mentor.  Imagine questions that they may ask, and verbally practice your answers.  Typically, programs will be interested in the same aspects that they asked about in your initial application package.  Hence, expect them to ask you about your preparation, experiences, and motivation, as well as some very basic questions in which they might ask you to describe yourself.  For example, they might ask about your strengths and weaknesses or what you like to do to handle stress or to have fun.

    If you make it to the interview phase, that is a very good sign.  At this point, many programs are screening out people who sound good on paper, but lack interpersonal skills or have poor stress management skills.   Hence, if you are indeed the person you presented in your application package, you’ll have a good chance of successfully making it through the interviews.

    About.com advice on interviewing

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