A Comprehensive Guidebook for Graduate School Application

Liwei Liao 加中安徽青年发展基金会 2022-01-24 05:15

1. Grad School Search Engine:

If you are a rookie preparing to apply to graduate school, the first step in applying for graduate school is determining your goal and study direction. Although you can decide on a school after you have decided on a specific major, you should at least consider in advance what kind of graduate school program(s) you are more suited for and how you want to plan your future development.

Please follow the search engine tools listed and start your orientation by tracking the keywords of your interest.

(For Canadian Universities & Programs)




(For International Universities & Programs)






Consider whether a program is right for you by two main points.

I. Course-based vs. research-based graduate students

Course-based graduate programs are more inclined to practice and skill training, which is suitable for students who want to enter the workplace directly after graduation. When applying, you can show more of your future career outlook, and relevant work experience will also be a plus.

Research-based graduate programs are more focused on theoretical and academic exploration, which is suitable for students who want to pursue Ph.D. or further research after graduation. When applying, you can show more of your strong academic ability and prepare relevant research experience and academic papers.

II. Continue to study in-depth or switch to other fields

Many students are not very satisfied with their undergraduate field of study, which does not fit their career plan. Then going to graduate school is an important opportunity to choose a second major: the requirements of some master's programs allow applicants to have no undergraduate-related background, which is perfect for students who want to change their major.

2. U of T SGS Featured Application Resources:

As a current graduate student at the University of Toronto, I have also specified the most relevant information involved in each step of the application process for those who wish to apply to the school of graduate studies at the University of Toronto.

Step 1: Exploring programs of interest https://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/programs/

-Program information by SGS division https://sgs.calendar.utoronto.ca/divisional-structure-view

Step 2: Confirming relevant admission requirements


-For more detailed information, you can search the contacts associated with the corresponding graduate units through the directory http://portal.sgs.utoronto.ca/public/directory/graduateunits

Step 3: Preparing application documents


-FAQS https://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/admissions/frequently-asked-questions-faqs/

Step 4: Starting online application https://apply.sgs.utoronto.ca

Please feel free to contact me by email for any unclear points regarding this section. You can reach me at liwei.liao@mail.utoronto.ca.

3. CV Formatting:

Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a complete overview of your academic achievements, publications, academic interests and skills developed as a result of your degree and related experience. It is highly recommended for use when applying to research-based master's or doctoral programs. Here are some tips and details to keep in mind that I have summarized about preparing a CV.

-Guide & Samples







-Professional Action Verbs



(With comparisons)

-Writing Tips




The criteria for preparing a resume for common use in a course-based program are different from a CV, but quite similar to those for preparing a workplace resume. That is why they were not listed in this manual respectively. If you need further information about resume preparation, please feel free to contact me.

4. Personal Statement Editing:

The personal statement is often considered the most important component of the grad school application. After the COVID-19 pandemic, most universities now require two forms of personal statements depending on the specific requirements of the program: a full-length essay, or a short answer to multiple tailored questions.

Although the form and topic of the instrument can only be viewed when you enter the application stage, the content will usually cover the applicant's experience, the applicant's understanding of the major, the applicant's reasons for choosing the major, the applicant's fit with the major, etc. It is recommended that you do your research on the major you are applying to and create an outline and mind map for writing your essay. This is the fastest way to complete the application process.

Another information here I would like to highlight is very determinant for students applying to multiple majors: if you are applying to different majors in the same field, you only need to optimize and revise your application according to the different requirements of the school; if you are applying to programs in different fields, you are required to draft your application in advance to avoid mistakes and omissions.

Key points in preparing your personal statement

When preparing the content of a personal statement, applicants must pay attention to writing concisely and concisely, highlighting the key points and learning to make trade-offs; content should seize your own strengths and highlights, to build on your strengths and avoid uncovering your weaknesses without emphasizing how to make up for your weaknesses; combining your own experiences and traits with professional requirements and professional characteristics, and showing your own thinking process.

You can take the following aspects into your consideration:

Academic & Project Experience (most relevant projects)

Personal traits

Reasons for applying

Research direction/academic goals

Work experience

Extracurricular activities

Career goals

Understanding of the program

Please refer to the links I have listed below for all the materials related to the personal statement and start preparing your own personal statement.

-Guide & Samples






https://www.studential.com/personal-statement-examples (PS search engine)


https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnVAQudErJ12UTFDkbO3yr7-V2dK1RQmu (AA&CC)

-Grammar & Phraseology




-Specific Writing Strategies





-Personal Statement Events available at U of T



5. Reference

Due to the impact of the pandemic, many applicants' most important major classes are online, and they are unable to further meet and interact effectively with their major class professors face-to-face. However, applicants should still try their best to seize the opportunity to maintain good socialization with professors by attending more online office hours, applying to become a TA, or writing emails to discuss academics to leave a good impression on professors and get good grades in their major classes.

Reference for graduate school applications can come in two forms: online using the application link, or a paper version of the letter sent to the school address (traditional). Most schools currently use the link-fill model. Generally, schools require 2-3 reference letters for the vast majority of programs, and it is recommended that applicants have a list of 4-5 references to ensure the success rate of obtaining enough reference letters.

Considering I have detailed in another article of mine about asking for a reference from professors in a professional manner, applicants who may need relevant guidance information or templates are encouraged to review that article. For the rest of the reference-related information, please refer to the links below.

-The way to ask for references





-The sample reference letters





-The guide to writing reference on your own (If requested by your referee)




6. Funding for graduate school

Applying for postgraduate studies, especially for international students, is a huge expense. Therefore, it is necessary to consider various channels for obtaining grants or funds while applying for postgraduate studies. Some schools can get an Entrance Scholarship if applying for a taught master's degree, but this situation is not common in Canada. After the official admission, the university also has scholarships and work-study opportunities for different student groups, and everyone "competes for employment". Of course, most of the tuition and living expenses are still at their own expense.

The financial support of the research master's degree will usually be directly offset part of the tuition fee when you enroll, and the remaining part will be credited to your student account. The cost of living will invariably be less of a burden.

Below I have compiled various ways to apply for graduate scholarships, including universities in Canada as well as universities outside of Canada.

Inside Canada

-Scholarship Search Engine


-Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS)

The maximum amount of aid provided is $15,000 CAD for 3 consecutive sessions.



-Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)


https://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Students-Etudiants/StudentDeadlines-EtudiantDatelimites_eng.asp (For different program deadlines)

P.S. NSERC will not support clinical trials or research related to human health or nutrition.

-Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)


-Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)


-U of T Scholarship and Awards

https://future.utoronto.ca/finances/financial-aid/university-of-toronto-financial-aid-utaps/ (UTAPS)



Outside Canada


7. Standardized Exams Information

GMAT/GRE exams are the most common standardized exams mandated or highly recommended by majors. Other fields such as law and medicine also have their own standardized exams in Canada. Because different schools have different assessment criteria, sometimes transcripts do not objectively show the applicant's true strengths. The standardized tests can perfectly solve this problem and allow admissions officers to judge based on a uniform standard. Therefore, it is highly recommended that applicants prepare for the GMAT/GRE as long as the program they are applying to accepts the submission of test scores. A high score on the standardized test can make up for the lack of good undergraduate grades to a certain extent, and is a valuable "second chance" to get grad school admission. Many applicants have relied on their high standardized scores to "change their lives" and achieve a GPA of less than 3.0 but have received offers from a large number of prestigious schools.

Below is my collection of information about all the popular standardized tests involved in applying to graduate school.

-The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for graduate school


-The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for business


-The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) for medical school


-The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for law school


-The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) for optometry


-The Dental Admission Test (DAT) for dentistry


-The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) for pharmacy


8. Co-curricular Programs and Community Services:







9. Ordering a Transcript (only applied to U of T students)



10. General Tips for Grad School Application:

-Try to be proactive and plan early because you will be able to make a continuous work commitment to your chosen extra-curricular programs. With your senior year approaching, you will also have a better chance to put the tons of volunteer hours you have accumulated into your personal statement so that they will pave the way for your university and scholarship application. It also helps you demonstrate a long-term time commitment to something you are interested in (would reflect your preferences and experience underneath), which looks quite intriguing to Admission Committees.


-UTSC Assignment Calculator


This tool can be helpful when you try to plan your graduate application in advance.