Graduate Applications: Dos and Don'ts

Graduate Applications: Dos and Don'ts

QS Staff Writer

Updated August 20, 2022 Updated August 20

Start your application to graduate school with these simple ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’, from University of New South Wales International Director, Aleksandr Voninski.

Applying to graduate school isn't just about the next two years of your life; it's about your future.

"Ask yourself, where do you want to be in five, ten, 15 years from now," Voninski says. "What sort of career are you hoping for? Is it realistic? Can you afford it? What are the job prospects like?"

It may seem a bit daunting. After all, anything can happen in ten years. The key is not to think of your graduate degree as a short-term investment. Once you've graduated, your master's or PhD will be with you for life, and future employers will (hopefully) look favorably on the investment you made.

Of course, don't enrol in a graduate program just for the sake of it. If you're not sure about the program, it may not be for you.

"But don't be afraid to take the leap either," says Voninski. "After all, you have 40 years of exciting career options ahead of you."

If you're ready to apply, follow Voninski's key dos and don'ts for success.


  • Take your time when filling out the application form. This will be your first contact with the admissions committee. Your application should reflect in full detail your personal and professional information and your motivation and expectations with the program.
  • Supply clear contact details: one telephone number and one email address that you can be reached on is all you need.
  • Consider your options and look at what each university course can offer you. It's important to find the right fit.
  • Choose your referees carefully. These can be anyone that benefits your candidacy. It's always better to choose someone that knows you well and can confirm your sense of responsibility, commitment, leadership and team work.
  • Prepare yourself for the personal interview. When it comes time to answer questions try to go straight to the point and be concise.
  • Speak to alumni. Not only have they been through the process before you, they did so successfully, so they should have some useful advice.


  • Submit an incomplete application. You'll only put yourself at a disadvantage.
  • Wait until the last minute. Get organized, give yourself plenty of time, and apply before the deadline. Murphy's law says that in that particular moment the internet will break down, the mail will be stolen and you have missed the deadline!
  • Be afraid to ask questions. There are real people sitting in real offices who are happy to give you all the required details and support you need to get through the admissions process.
  • Send your mum. You're an adult person, you should do it yourself. Gaining admission into graduate school is challenging, but you'll be rewarded for your efforts.

This article was originally published in October 2012 . It was last updated in August 2022

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