How To Get Into Grad School

{aka: How to become a stellar and well-rounded graduate school applicant}

Friday, 28 June 2013

I get a lot of questions about how to get into dental school and I do try to answer each one individually. But I thought that I would compile this information in a little “cheat sheet” which you could refer to when you’re wondering what to do to get into grad school. Although I’ve catered this list to health professional and science programs, this list can be adapted for any type of graduate program. 

While this list is no where near comprehensive, it does provide some basic information on what {I think*} will make you a well-rounded and desirable graduate school applicant. 

So here you go! 


I have broken this list up into five main categories {although many of the sub points overlap}. 


:: Grades - keep them up! Although it’s not the only part of your application, some schools get so many applications that they do have a GPA cut off and won’t look at anything lower. 

:: Standardized Tests - whether this is the MCAT, GRE, DAT, or what, you should do your best to perform well on these. If you can, take prep courses and take many practice tests. This is not only an indication of knowledge but of effort.

:: Course load - take many and varied courses and challenge yourself each quarter/semester. Also make sure you meet all the prerequisite requirements. 

:: Get Your Degree - most {I’m pretty sure all} graduate programs require at least a Bachelor’s degree {if you are set on a specific graduate program, I do encourage you to get your BS or BA in a related field, although not required}. 


:: Volunteering - this is key. Humanitarianism and community service give you a broader perspective and is the foundation for a well-rounded candidate and compassionate human being. 

:: Fundraising - when you raise money for good causes and organizations, you exhibit creativity, resourcefulness, and commitment. 

:: Charity Walks/Runs {and other one-day events} - not only are these good for your overall health, but these one-day events are great for connecting with other people and easily fit into busy schedules. Do beach cleanups or plant trees - just get involved.

:: Tutoring - As you progress through college and gain more knowledge in your area of study, pay it forward and spread your knowledge. Tutoring exhibits communication skills and expertise. 

Field Experience

:: Shadowing - if you want to see if a certain field is right for you, then you must see what it’s like firsthand. Follow a surgeon for a day or shadow a dentist. This gives you the opportunity to ask questions and gives you a different perspective than the classroom provides. 

:: Assisting - get your hands in there! Although you often need an additional degree or certificate in some fields, getting hands-on experience can only help you. 

:: Internships - get work experience. Spend a summer working as a hospital scribe or work as a front office staff member. Spending a prolonged period of time in the field will not only look great on your application, but will enable you to see what goes on behind the scenes. 


:: Research - If you plan to get your Ph.D. you will more than likely need to have research experience. Participating in research projects will also train you to ask tough questions and find your own answers. Problem-solving skills are crucial in all fields. Many health professional schools also encourage applicants to have at least a basic research background. 

:: Honor Societies - apply for national honor societies. All those Greek letters on your application mean something. These are stepping stones for graduate school applications. It gets you experienced in writing personal statements, resumés, and applications. 

:: Clubs and Groups - be part of something! You can get perfect grades, but you need to show that you are passionate about something. Here is where you can get a lot of leadership experience as well. Be on committees and executive boards of school government, science club, or whatever else floats your boat, just get out there. 


:: Hobbies - do what you love. Studying 24/7 will make you go crazy. If you love to sew or paint or dance, keep doing it. Showing passion for activities is just as important as your “stats” and is essential for your mental health.

:: Athletics - whether it’s collegiate or intramural sports, participating in sports shows commitment, teamwork. and discipline - all important qualities in any applicant. 

:: Arts - if you aren’t the sporty type, do something in the arts. Join a choir or do late night improv but whatever you do, keep fostering your creativity! 

Whew! I hope you learned something from this very long list. Let me know if you have any additional questions and I wish you all the best of luck as you apply to graduate school. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! 

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*This information is all from my experience and perspective so I encourage you to ask questions of your professors and career counselors and get as much information as possible from your school website.