Many graduate schools and jobs require letters of recommendation before they will seriously consider you as a candidate for admission, scholarships or employment. A great letter of recommendation can really make the difference. Conversely, a poor letter can also make a negative difference. So in order to get the best letter possible, you need to do a little work first.
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If you’re planning to go to grad school, you may get a chuckle at all your friends working so hard to prepare themselves for the job market. Fortunately, you don’t have to be bothered with such trivialities for many years – you’re going to grad school.
Well, guess what? Graduate school is a job.
While there are many obvious differences (especially financial) between taking a full-time job and attending grad school, the selection process is similar in many ways. It turns out that the same characteristics that would make you a desirable candidate for a job are valued by graduate programs as well.
If you are planning to apply to a graduate program, you may want to check out an application well before (like a couple years before) you actually apply. Although you might expect a master’s program in history to be most interested in your academic background, especially in history courses, you’ll see the program’s application also asks about your extracurricular and work experiences. And if an interview is required, the discussion will definitely go well beyond your grades.
Keep in mind that graduate programs are often very selective, so they can look not just for strong students, but strong students who are well-rounded and who will add to the character of the program in other ways. Many graduate programs involve teaching assistant responsibilities, favoring candidates who can demonstrate Leadership and Communication skills. And applied programs such as business schools accept very few students who have not worked for two or more years.
The bottom like is that whether you’re headed for the job market or on to more education, you will be evaluated against other talented candidates, and while an impressive GPA is a great qualification, it will rarely compensate for a lack of other activities or skills. Think of grad schools as a job, work on achieving college success and building your background accordingly, and you’ll greatly enhance your chances of being accepted.