What do graduate schools expect from Master’s degree applicants?

By Maxine Seya

“What does a college expect from an applicant wanting to apply for a Master’s degree?”

– Jahid Emon, a student from Bangladesh

Jahid, you must know that the American graduate school admissions process is decentralized.

This means that you must apply individually to each university that you’re interested in attending.

Each of these universities will have their own admissions criteria. On top of that, each department will have different expectations. These expectations can also vary from year to year and depend on the background of each applicant. Foreign students may also be held to a different standard, including English level.

So your question can only be answered by the individual institutions you personally contact. How do you choose which schools to contact? That depends on your previous experience, budget, future goals, and location preferences. Without knowing that, no one will be able to give you an answer to your question.

But I will give you some tips when applying. These tips tend to be applicable to most graduate programs, whether that’s a business degree i.e. MBA (Master’s of Business Administration) or a law degree i.e. JD (juris doctor).

  • Through your essays and interviews, demonstrate your interest in that particular institution, not just your field of study. If you want to become a lawyer and earn a JD degree, don’t just stop at that. Explain why you want the JD from X university. This requires you to deeply research what makes that university special to you.
    • As Duke Fuqua graduate admissions dean said about what differentiates a strong candidate from a weak one: “They are able to demonstrate enthusiasm as well as knowledge of, in this case, the school, Fuqua.”

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.