Magazine article Foreign Policy

How to Strengthen Your Grad School Applications

Magazine article Foreign Policy

How to Strengthen Your Grad School Applications

Article excerpt

A strong grad school application begins with the basics: Be clear about your goals and your reasons for applying. Show openness as well as direction.

"The world is changing, and the job market is changing," says Carmen Iezzi Mezzera, executive director of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA). In explaining your career goals to schools, Mezzera says to think both short term and long term. "Highlight your resilience, your grit, your flexibility and adaptability," she suggests. "There are many different ways to be of service in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors."

Consider how a program that interests you would help you develop the skills to ride the waves of future job markets. Aspiring international affairs professionals will need more than just knowledge, expertise, cultural sensitivity, and a passion for the greater good: They also need to develop thinking skills such as the ability to read a document and determine its point of view, and the ability to look at a data set and discuss the trends it reveals.

Naturally, schools will want to know what you have learned from your work experience and international experience. To be sure, a strong academic record and high GRE scores are also helpful, but the quality of your personal essay and writing samples might matter more. "Writing skills separate people quickly," says Mezzera.

No matter how well you tell your story, however, also take care to avoid simple slip-ups. Mezzera identifies five common mistakes that can make even the best applicants vulnerable:

1. …

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