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The ultimate guide to applying to a graduate program: Introduction

It was an ordinary day sometime in mid-June of 2014 when I sat down to tackle a non-ordinary task: choosing a graduate program in the US.

I was staring at my computer monitor trying to collect my thoughts when a vivid flashback kicked in: me sitting in the same room figuring out my college plans. It wasn’t too bad. At the time, I knew I wanted to study in St. Petersburg, learn English, and go to a prestigious school. That narrowed my search down to pretty much 3 schools. One of them was a clear favorite - which I eventually ended up graduating from. I didn’t have to worry about funding because Russian state universities have decent government sponsorship, ensuring a certain number of what we call “budget spots” in Russian. I got my education for free.

None of this applied to the current situation. I knew that US grad schools are expensive as hell. I’d also heard about MIT, Harvard and Yale - and that’s about it. I had no idea where I wanted to live in the States, how to evaluate program quality, what universities were decent. What I know now is the result of months of searching, speaking with school officials, and reflecting back on the experience. If I were to do it again, I’d do it differently in light of that experience.

Are you thinking about applying to grad school in the US? Currently searching for programs? Overwhelmed and exhausted by the heaps of information you encounter daily?

Read on, my fellow future grad students! I hope to serve you as a guide, adviser, or just a compassionate friend in your search for a graduate program. In this series of posts, we will dive into the nitty-gritty of the US graduate education and discuss tips and tricks to make your life easier as you conquer your applications.

We will talk about some fundamental aspects of the process - including the structure of the US higher education and how to choose the type of degree - as well as more particular issues such as establishing an application timeline and communicating with school officials effectively. Whether you are a US or an international applicant, you will find lots of useful information to help you with this challenging task.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

  1. Know the types of universities and degrees
  2. Decide what type of degree will be the best fit
  3. Establish your timeline: How long does it take to apply to graduate school in the US and what are the essential application steps?
  4. Choosing schools and organizing info
  5. Communicating with school officials: American email etiquette 101

P. S. More posts will be added in the future - if you have requests for specific information, let me know!