5 Tips for Applying to a Top Research University

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Updated August 4, 2020

Tips for Applying to a Top Research University

  • Research the School in Advance
  • Get a High GRE Score
  • Obtain Excellent Recommendations
  • Remember to Do Extracurricular Activities
  • Have a Strong GPA

Getting into a top research university can be a challenge. With thousands of students competing for top spots, students are faced with numerous hurdles before they can attend their dream school. To prepare for a university application, students can use the following tips.

1. Research the School in Advance

There are hundreds of excellent schools out there, and students do not have to enroll at Ivy League schools to get a good education. Different schools have unique specialties, so students should look for academic programs that match the type of research that they want to do. Afterward, students can research the school, the surrounding area and the types of academic projects completed by students at the school. A graduate degree can take two to five years to complete, so students need to find a university that they will be happy at.

Resource: 50 Best Graduate Research Institutes

2. Get a High GRE Score

While the student's academic record and application essay matter greatly, the university will also look at the student's GRE scores. Like the SAT, this test can be prepared for in advance. The questions change every year, but the essential concepts and format remain the same. By preparing for the GRE in advance, students can ensure that they achieve a high enough score to get into their favorite research program.

3. Obtain Excellent Recommendations

Basically every university requires recommendations from previous professors or employers. In general, students can expect two or three letters of recommendation to be required. During an undergraduate program, students should find two or three professors that they work well with. They should get to know these professors and ask them to write a letter of recommendation. In addition, students can ask their professors on tips for finding the best graduate programs and advice for getting into the school.

4. Remember to Do Extracurricular Activities

Schools want students who are active members of the community. Extracurricular activities like volunteering or participating in a science club help the student to stand out from other applicants. Students can use these activities on their application or in their personal statement. In addition, extracurricular activities allow students to network with professionals in their field and gain additional references.

5. Have a Strong GPA

Graduate programs want students who have excellent grades. Other than GRE scores, grades are one of the first things that the school looks for. While a C in an introductory English class may not hurt the student, they should have top scores in every class related to their major. Ideally, the student should have a GPA of at least a 3.0 or higher. For top schools, the student may be expected to have a 3.5 GPA or higher.

With the right GPA, test scores and recommendations, students can get into the research universities that they want. Once the student has entered the program, they can begin working toward their dream career in research. The application is the most important part of getting into graduate school, so students should spend extra time making sure that their application is perfect before they submit it.

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