Who better than our current students to offer advice to this year’s applicants!  I have asked our Admissions volunteers to write for the blog, specifically about their experience in the application process.  Today, first-year MALD student, Jessica Smith, weighs in.

I just realized that today marks exactly one year since I took the GRE. It’s tough to believe that it’s been a full 366 days since that test, because while I was in the midst of studying for it, the process — of GRE prep and of applying to grad school in general — seemed like it truly would never end.

I won’t lie to you; from the time I started researching schools in September 2007, until I finished my last essay in January 2008, I was one thoroughly frazzled person. My friends got really tired of hearing I wouldn’t be able to hang out with them on the weekends because I was studying for the GRE. The people at my neighborhood coffee shop knew me well — I was that girl who would order a small latte and then take up a whole table with my big laptop for roughly five hours while rewriting my essays yet again. I lost sleep worrying about whether my recommenders would have their letters written in time, or whether I had ordered enough copies of my undergrad transcript, or whether I was applying to the right places, or whether I would get in anywhere at all.  Sitting in that coffee shop in November, I felt as if January 15th may as easily have been a decade away.

But it doesn’t have to be like that! Some of you may be well underway on your applications, and some of you (ahem, you know who you are) are just getting started on the process. However far along you are, there’s no doubt that it is a pretty significant undertaking, but there is no reason it should be such a stressful one. I’d like to offer you a few tips to make the process more manageable:

-Make a checklist of all the items that you need for each school to which you’re applying. It helps to keep tabs on when each deadline is, and which parts you’re still missing.

-Have a friend who’s a good writer/editor look over your essays. After endless writing and re-writing, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae — I agonized endlessly over things like semicolons versus colons, or where to use “passionate” versus “dedicated,” until a friend helped me step back and re-focus on the bigger picture. It’s good to have another person read through and tell you if what you intend to say is coming across clearly.

-Stay on top of your recommenders! If they’ve already agreed to give you a letter, then you’re not nagging. You may fear that sending yet another reminder e-mail is annoying, but they will be far more annoyed if you wait until January 14th to ask sheepishly if they’ve started writing because, “Well, uh, it’s kinda due tomorrow.”

Above all, stay cool. I promise you, this process will eventually be over — your essays WILL get done, those letters of recommendation WILL come in, and your transcripts WILL be received. And then, on January 15th, think of something nice to reward yourself with!

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