The May 1 application deadline is coming up, and I thought this would be the perfect time to interview Laura Bald, the admissions manager for all of Portland State University’s graduate business programs. Here’s everything you need to know to submit your strongest application:
The May 1 deadline
If you apply by May 1, your application is FREE, so you’ll be saving $67. That’s $67 dollars you can spend on textbooks, coffee and other graduate student essentials. Laura gave us her top four reasons for submitting an application before the deadline:
- We can guarantee there will be seats available in the program. After May 1, applicants run the risk of the program being at capacity.
- Graduate Business Admissions Scholarships are still available for those who apply before the deadline.
- You’ll have plenty of time to prepare for school, get funding, register for classes and all of the necessary to-do’s before classes start.
- As soon as you are admitted, you’ll immediately gain access to exclusive events like career development workshops, networking events and events specially designed for you as a newly admitted student.
What impresses you most in an application?
It is very evident when an applicant has put a lot of time and effort in their application; all application requirements are submitted correctly, the application essays are thoughtful, the resume is up to date and smart references are chosen. The amount of time and effort an applicant has put into their application really shows us that they are ready to put the time and effort into a graduate program.
Should weaknesses in an application deter an applicant from applying?
No, not necessarily. While each of our application requirements are intentional and designed to assess your readiness for a program, we do look at each candidate holistically. Additionally, we place a lot of emphasis on a growth mindset. In practice, this means that if your application shows a weakness, you can compensate by:
- Giving us context around this weakness in your application
- Informing us of the steps you have taken to ensure you are prepared for this area of the program
For example, if you happen to have a lower GPA than our average applicant, the application offers you an option to provide a low GPA explanation. This is where you can speak to why your GPA may have been low in undergrad. This section can and should be used to explain the obstacles you faced, what actions you have taken to mitigate these barriers and what steps you will take to ensure your success in the program.
We’ve seen some amazing students who struggled in their undergraduate education or with standardized tests, but excelled in their graduate programs; and we count many of these students among our most impressive and involved alumni. We look at admissions as the art of determining a candidate’s readiness to succeed and be transformed by our programs. We have learned through experience time and again that numbers are not the whole story. We know that if we had not allowed candidates to tell us their story in their application, we may have missed out on some of our best community members.
What are your top tips for submitting a strong application?
The essays are huge — this is where applicants show their true colors. The essays should be thoughtful and real. We should be able to start getting an idea of your personality, passions, goals and motivations. Again — grades, test scores and resumes don’t tell us the whole story. We want to know that you have a growth mindset, are eager to learn and are ready to contribute to the PSU community. I highly recommend using the STAR method to write your essay.
What are the things an applicant should NOT do?
- Make easy errors. Proofread your application before submitting and ask for outside help! I’ve seen people misspell their own name in their application. These are mistakes that are red flags to the admissions committee but that can easily be remedied before submitting an application.
- Be anything but courteous to the administrative staff. Holistic admissions means that your admissions committee will take every interaction with you into account as they try to determine your readiness for a program. The staff are here to help you through your application process and can offer insight for how to strengthen your application. They understand applying to graduate school can be stressful. Don’t take it out on them! Your actions will absolutely make their way back to the admissions committee- so treat every interaction as a professional one.
In what areas have applicants fallen short in the past?
Not spending enough time on the essays. When you submit only a few sentences per essay, it tells the admissions committee that you may not be serious about graduate school. It does not give them confidence that you’ll put in the needed effort to be successful in your classes.
Follow these tips and voila — a great application! Still have questions? Make an appointment with an advisor to discuss your program of interest in-person, over the phone or via Skype. If you want to hear about The School of Business experience from a grad student, connect with a current student ambassadors to get the inside scoop.
Visit our website to apply. Best of luck!