Posted by: Josef Korbel School, Office of Graduate Admissions | October 14, 2011

How not to irritate the admissions committee

As an admissions staff member who is also a current student, I feel like I have a bit more leeway to be straight with prospective students. So rather than drivel on about my classes and assignments again, this post is dedicated to providing you with a bit of advice/admonishments/tips & tricks for dealing with our office and the admissions process in general. Please know that I mean all of this in the nicest, most constructive way. But we get some pretty ridiculous requests/complaints and I figured someone ought to tell you to knock it off before you totally sabotage yourself. So here goes… my 10 tips for prospective students (in no particular order):

1. No matter how good your GPA, GRE score, time spent abroad, work experience, etc. is, there are at least 10 other applicants whose stats are better than yours. Which is not to say you shouldn’t be proud of your accomplishments; you should, and you should include them on your application. But a little humility can go a long way; bragging about how fabulous you are will likely not endear you to anyone on the admissions review committee.

2. As frustrating as it may be, we cannot tell you what your chances of admission are, and in most cases we can’t be more specific regarding what you should say in your essay/resume/CV/etc. The reasons behind every admissions decision are unique; one person may have a lower GPA but great work experience, another may have a stellar GPA but no work experience and one, both, or neither are accepted. That’s just the way it is. For information on what to include in a resume or CV, I suggest this website.

3. We are also not able to tell you which program is best for you. Only you know that. We are happy to steer you towards one or another program if you tell us your academic interests, but beyond that you’re on your own. Along those lines, we can’t tell you what employers will think of X degree or Y experience; we have no real way of knowing that without doing an extensive survey of all potential employers – not very feasible or useful, as each person’s academic and professional experiences will be different. If you’re totally lost, try setting up some informational interviews at places you’d like to work someday.

4. Please, please, please look through the Korbel website before calling or emailing us. It has tons of info on it regarding the admissions process, future careers, internships, etc. While we are happy to speak with prospective students and answer questions, 95% of emails and calls we get are regarding information that is readily available on the website. Research will comprise the vast majority of your grad school experience so you might as well get started now.

5. You may think that because we are the Office of Graduate Admissions we handle letters of recommendation, transcripts, and the online application. Makes sense, right? Yep, but nevertheless we don’t. All that is handled by the Office of Graduate Studies. Their office administers the applications and related materials for all of DU, including Korbel. Transcript lost in the mail? Recommender never got the email from DU? 303.871.2706.

6. When I was going through this process a couple years ago (geez, can’t believe it’s been that long!) I obsessively searched every online resource I could think of for advice on what to do/not do. You should do the same. That’s how I found out what to send to my old professors to ensure that I got good letters of rec from them. I sent old coursework, transcripts, my essay, resume, and a suggested list of things to highlight in their letters. So despite having graduated 5 years previously, I got great letters of rec from all three of my former professors. Moral of the story: the internet is your friend. However, I would caution you against taking advice from people on forums such as GradCafe without a large grain of salt. While well-meaning, the majority of users on that site are prospective students just like you and are not nearly as knowledgeable as they think they are. (Don’t even get me started on those ridiculous “here are my stats and the schools I’m applying to – please tell me if I’ll get in” posts. Ugh!)

7. Yes, applying to grad school is expensive. No, we can’t waive your application fee. Not even if you’re in the Peace Corps. Not even if you’re unemployed. Not even if you’ve got 15 kids to feed. Not even if you’re single-handedly propping up the economy of Lichtenstein. Unless you’re a Pickering or McNair Fellow you’re out of luck. (And if you don’t know what those are, you’re not one of them.) I feel your pain, I really do – I shelled out about $900 for grad school application fees and related expenses, and I was unemployed at the time. It sucked.

8. Please don’t complain to us that some other university did X for you or doesn’t require Y. This is not that university and we have our own policies, no matter how unfair or lame they may seem (or be).  What irritated me most during the application process was how some universities required me to send in 2 copies of my transcripts. Do they not own a copy machine? I have to shell out even more money because they can’t walk over to the next building with a copy of my transcript? But as ridiculous as that seemed to me, I had to do it, and I did. Fortunately, Korbel only wants one copy of your transcripts, but I’m sure there are plenty of other things that might be frustrating. You just gotta deal with it.

9. The Master of Development Practice degree is gone. Please move on.

10. You need to know why you want this degree. Which means you should know what you want to do after graduation – the whole purpose of getting a Master’s degree is to be more competitive in the field you want to work in. Don’t apply to grad school because you think you should or because every generation of your family for the past 80 years has gotten one. If you don’t have good reasons for wanting this degree it will be painfully obvious to those evaluating your application and you will likely not get in. And if you’re an expert BS’er and do get in, you will have a much harder time succeeding – grad school is TOUGH and you have to really know why you’re here putting yourself through all this stress and misery to get through it. So figure out a rough career plan and apply to schools and degrees that will assist you in that career. In other words, don’t put the cart before the horse.

Okay the tough love session is now over. Carry on.

Viel Glück!

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