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Everything You Need to Know
About Crafting a Remarkable
Graduate School Application


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It’s Time to Demystify the Graduate School Application Process

Applying to graduate school can seem challenging — but it doesn’t have to be a difficult or confusing process. At Kent State University, we want to help you navigate the graduate school admissions process as simply and as efficiently as possible.

We encourage you to use this resource to craft a remarkable grad school application.


It’s Not All About Grades — What are Admissions Professionals Really Looking For?

Grades are important, of course, but they are not the only factor that admissions professionals consider when reviewing your application. Admissions professionals want to make sure that you’re the right fit for their academic institution and that you will contribute to the overarching mission of the university.

So, what are admissions professionals looking for in a candidate? And how can you present yourself as an incredible asset to the institution’s community?

Graduate admissions professionals seek candidates who:

  • Exhibit critical-thinking skills
  • Display unique personal characteristics
  • Articulate clearly defined goals
  • Reflect the values of the institution

As the applicant, you can exemplify these qualities by:

Doing your research and  being proactive

While admissions professionals and program coordinators should serve as a resource to you throughout the admissions process, show that you’re being proactive by researching specific program details and application requirements. In other words, don’t create work for them by asking questions you could have answered yourself via the website.



Submitting a one-of-a-kind goal statement


Admissions professionals receive dozens (if not hundreds) of goal statements during the admissions cycle. Your goal statement is your chance to showcase who you are as an individual and what you have to offer the university.

Offering excellent letters of recommendation

Most graduate school applications include two or three letters of recommendation. For this reason, admissions professionals want to see detailed and engaging — yet clear and concise — letters of recommendation that highlight your professional and academic achievements.

Rewarding your spirit of ambition

Applying to graduate school is not for the faint of heart, and admissions professionals know that you are putting yourself out there in hopes of transforming your future with a graduate degree. In all of your application materials, be true to yourself and present yourself as the curious, compassionate, and driven professional you know you are.

Your grad school application should reflect the kind of person and the kind of professional you are. If you are strategic about what you include in your application — you’ll effectively communicate that you’re the kind of student who will make a fantastic addition to your institution of interest.

Research Your Options: Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Graduate School Program

Before investing your time, money and energy into a graduate degree, it is crucial that you ask yourself some pointed questions in order to identify how, why and where you’re going to pursue your degree.

Important questions to ask yourself before choosing a program:

Everybody has different reasons for wanting to invest in a graduate degree, but it is important that you reflect on and identify why you are choosing to go back to school. Keep your eye on your “why” — this motivation will be the force that pushes you when you’re experiencing the inevitable challenges of graduate school.

A graduate degree will not only set you apart from other job seekers — it will also give you more job security and allow you to command a higher salary upon hire. By obtaining a graduate degree, you will differentiate yourself from the many other professionals who hold only a bachelor’s degree — making you more competitive when it matters.

It depends on your area of interest, but maybe it’s already clear which graduate degree you need to pursue. For instance, maybe you already know that you want to be a clinical mental health counselor or a nurse, and thus, you have fewer options to consider. That said, if you’re currently looking to get a graduate degree in a business-related field, you will have a variety of respected business degrees to choose from (MBA, Management Systems, Finance, Accounting, Marketing), and you’ll need to carefully consider which graduate degree will help you reach your professional goals.

Academic institutions continue to offer more flexible graduate school options for professionals who have a busy lifestyle. You should carefully consider what kind of completion format will allow you to achieve your academic goals without disrupting your other important responsibilities. Inquire as to whether your program of interest offers either online or a hybrid (combination of online and in-person classes) format.


Learn more about our graduate program options. 

Download Kent State’s Program Guide today!


Start the Process: Begin Your Grad School Application

When you start your application, one of the first questions you’ll be asked is whether you’re a domestic or international student:

  • U.S. citizens, refugees, and asylees will apply as domestic students (proof of refugee or asylee status will be required). 
  • Non-U.S. citizens will apply as international students.

Second, you will be asked to select the type of application you will be submitting. At Kent State, we offer degree and non-degree options for those wishing to further their education. 

  • Master’s: 24 masters programs, in 112 majors, with 146 concentrations
  • Doctoral: 5 doctoral degrees, in 48 majors, with 30 concentrations
  • Post-Master’s: 1 post-master’s, in 6 majors, with 37 certificates
  • Variety of non-degree options

Before beginning your application, be sure to pay attention to program-specific requirements. Visit your specific program’s website to review admissions requirements. There are some commonalities among applications, but most programs have a unique set of application requirements.

Tell Your Story: How to Write a Personal Statement

Most graduate schools require applicants to submit a personal statement — sometimes called a statement of purpose or goal statement. This one-to-two page narrative is a way for you to demonstrate your potential to succeed in graduate school and explore why you are a good fit for the program. 

The requirements for the goal statement may vary by program, so it’s critical that you check out the unique instructions either within the application or on the program website. Make sure to answer the prompt if one is given, but if there is no prompt, it appropriate to include the following:

  • Academic achievements
  • Professional experience
  • Research interests
  • Resilience, dedication and motivation

Writing a goal statement is also a great opportunity to discuss and explain any areas of concern from your prior academic record, so feel free to include whatever may be helpful to admissions professionals to explain why you may have a less-than-stellar undergraduate record.

Pro Tip: Research faculty from your program of interest to get familiar with their interests, specialties and research areas. If you have similar interests, you should include that information in your goal statement — and make the case for why you’d be a great addition to the program. 

Choose Your Best Advocate: Letters of Recommendation

Sometimes called a letter of reference, a letter of recommendation is a letter written by someone who can speak to your professional achievements or academic performance. A letter of recommendation is typically written by former employers, professors, clients or colleagues who can discuss the qualities that make you a good candidate for the program. 

When it comes to who should write your letters of recommendation, choose writers who:

  • Know you
  • Can speak to your ability to succeed in a graduate program
  • Are familiar with your ability to learn
  • Supervised or worked with you in a field related to your program

Other helpful tips when strategizing your letter(s) of recommendation:

  • Never submit a reference letter written by a family member
  • Ask well in advance
  • Discuss the program and your goals with the writer
  • Provide a resume
  • Thank them and stay in touch

Stay Organized: Other Materials You May Need for Your Application

While a goal statement and letter(s) of recommendation are often staple requirements for a graduate school application, there are other materials you may need for your unique application. As always, check with your program of interest to ensure that you’re including the necessary information.

Pro Tip: Every graduate program has a dedicated graduate program coordinator who can be a valuable resource throughout your application process. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them, but double check the website for information so that they know you’re doing your homework and being proactive.

Not all programs require the GRE or GMAT, but if your program does, you will want to plan ahead to make sure your scores arrive in time. Plan to take your exam well before the application deadline. Some programs will accept scores from the MCAT or LSAT tests as a substitute for the GRE or GMAT, so check with your program of interest.

Every program requires official transcripts from all institutions where eight or more credit hours were earned. There are three acceptable ways to submit an official transcript:

  • Have previous institutions send transcripts directly to via the mail or secure online portal.
  • If you have an official transcript in an original sealed envelope, you may send it to the admissions office. If you have opened the envelope, the transcript immediately becomes unofficial.
  • You may upload both the front and back of this transcript in your application portal as a copy of your transcript. If admitted, you will need to send an official copy from the institution.

A resume highlights professional experience while a CV addresses your life’s work, such as publications and presentations. As you determine which you should submit, keep in mind the differences in discipline. If you’re interested in a purely academic path, the CV may be the better fit. For professional programs, a resume is much more typical. Be sure to research sample documents or templates for your unique discipline and follow the general guidelines/style.

For certain programs, a portfolio of work may be required (architecture, creative writing, translation, fashion industry studies, visual arts). The format for each discipline is unique. Some may accept physical work, while others may want digital copies; some programs have specific file format requirements, so be sure to check with your program.

For some programs, like music performance, auditions will be scheduled as part of your application process. Again, check with your program of interest!

Certain programs will require an interview prior to making an admission decision  — either in person or virtual. Do some research on the kinds of questions you should be prepared to ask and answer prior to attending the interview.

Many programs will require you to submit one or more writing samples. Showcase your best work, but choose work that also represents the style of the program you're applying to. For the hard sciences, a copy of your thesis would be appropriate. For the fine arts, for instance, a collection of poetry or other creative work would be acceptable.

This will be calculated by admissions staff once they receive your transcripts. Many institutions have a minimum requirement of a cumulative GPA (Kent State has a minimum requirement of a 3.0 cumulative GPA, but certain programs will have a higher GPA requirement).

An Inside Look at the Application Review and Decision Process

When it comes to the graduate school decision process, all applications receive a holistic review, meaning that all components of the application are thoroughly considered — grades, test scores, goal statement, letters of recommendation — while reviewing applications.

Here’s a brief look at the application review and decision process:

  • Initial review — admissions office ensures that your application is complete
  • Program review — graduate program coordinator review
  • College review — graduate dean decision
  • University review — graduate admissions decision

Once a decision has been reached, you will be notified via email to login to your application portal to view your decision. If you are admitted, you should notify the admissions office if you are accepting or declining your offer of admission. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Kent State’s Admissions Process

Navigating the graduate school admissions process inevitably comes with questions — questions you need answers to.

In an effort to make the process as simple as possible, we have listed some of the most frequently asked questions we receive at Kent State University:

If you are a domestic student (U.S. citizen, refugee or asylee) the application fee has been waived for the remainder of the academic year.  You may apply for free to the Spring, Summer or Fall 2021 terms. International students, please visit International Admissions for more information about the application process.

An application for graduate study is completed by applying online. Once an application has been submitted, you will receive an email confirmation. In addition to the email confirmation, you can check your status at any time through the application portal.

You can check the status of your application at any time by visiting the Application Portal. You will also receive email updates when your application is complete and has been sent to the program to review. 

Application deadlines vary by program. The Graduate Programs GPS includes the links to all academic program websites, where you can find specific information about application deadlines.

Most programs require three letters, although some programs require two. Your application checklist will reflect the number of recommendations required for the program in which you are applying. The letters should be completed by a person(s) who is familiar with your educational goals and professional and/or academic ability.

Yes, you may upload a copy of your official transcript at the time of application or in your application portal. If you don’t already have a copy of your official transcript, Graduate Admissions will accept electronic transcripts if they are sent directly from your college or university to gradapps@kent.edu or via USPS to: 

Graduate Admissions
Kent State University
P.O. Box 5190
Kent, OH 44242

Visit our Graduate Admissions Frequently Asked Questions page if you have additional questions related to applying to graduate school at Kent State University.

7 Need-to-Know Steps to Applying to Kent State University

Pro Tip: Currently, Kent State's Office of Graduate Admissions is offering free applications for domestic students. If you submit your application during this time, the application fee will be automatically waived. No special code is required. 

Additionally, you do not need to immediately provide all required application materials (e.g., transcripts, letters of recommendation, goal statement) when you submit your application. You may submit your application now to take advantage of the waived application fee, then log in to your application portal at a later point to upload new documents or replace previously submitted documents. 

Now's the time to apply for grad school, investment free!

Start Your Application


Admission to Kent State University’s graduate programs is competitive, but we’re here to make the admissions process as easy as possible. Please review the steps below and visit our admission pages to assist you as you complete your application. 

1. Get ready to apply

Before you begin your application visit the Get Ready to Apply page to determine which application type meets your personal needs.

2. Browse graduate programs

Explore over 350 degree and certificate options available on-campus or online. For a list of academic programs, please Browse Graduate Programs or download our Master Program Guide.

3. Review admissions criteria and program requirements

Review admissions criteria application deadlines, available start terms and departmental requirements for your intended program.

4. Submit your application

Start your 2021 application.

5. View your admissions decision

View your admission decision through your online application portal. Visit the Application Review Process page for more information.

6. Accept your offer of admission (admitted students)

Admitted students, please confirm your offer of admission through your application portal.

7. Review next steps (admitted students)

Visit our Orientation page for upcoming dates and activities. View our Aid & Assistantships page to find more information about financial assistance.

We are here to support you through the application process and beyond. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to begin the application process by clicking here.

Important Announcement:

Kent State University is now offering in-state tuition for master’s and doctoral* degree programs to anyone who has earned a bachelor’s degree from an Ohio institution.

In other words, even if you don’t live in Ohio right now, you may qualify for in-state tuition!

Domestic master’s and doctoral* students who are newly admitted for the upcoming Spring 2021, Summer 2021 or Fall 2021 semesters are now eligible to receive in-state tuition. This tuition discount even includes Kent State's online programs — click below to learn more about this new in-state tuition option.

Learn more about the in-state tuition option:
Find out more


Join a Community of Lifelong Learners at Kent State University

At Kent State University, we strive to be a community of change agents whose collective commitment to learning sparks epic thinking, meaningful voice and invaluable outcomes to better our society.

By fostering a culture of compassion and academic excellence, we transform lives and communities through the power of discovery, learning and creative expression in an inclusive environment.

If you have any questions about transforming your future with a graduate degree from Kent State University, we encourage you to contact us!

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4. Tell Your Story: How to Write a Personal Statement