For a quick overview of the typical graduate and professional school application process, see our How to Apply to Grad School Flow Chart.
Evaluating and Choosing Programs
In addition to reflectiong on your goals for further study you may also want to consider:
- How well do specific programs meet your goals?
- Are you looking for a specific research focus? Which faculty members research in your areas of interest at that school/in that program?
- Re admission requirements, do you have the core qualifications or do you need to pursue further courses and gain experience before applying?
- Have you spoken with your professors and other experts to learn about an institution's reputation, strengths, and weaknesses?
- There are excellent programs across Ontario, Canada, and the world - consider spending a year or two outside of Toronto.
What are common requirements for admission?
Every program is a little bit different, so we recommend you collect information about the programs you are exploring as you go. In general:
- Master's level programs require completion of an undergraduate degree; Second-Entry Bacehlor's level programs require varying amounts of degree completion.
- Many require specific courses and/or a specific number of credits in a related area of study.
- Grades are important but vary by program and institution. Most institutions require a minimum B+ or 3.0 GPA in the last 5 or 10 credits (equivalent of 1 or 2 years of full-time study). However, institutions report that most successful applicants have grades significantly higher than the minimum.
- Many programs require related experience either in research or "in the field" via employment or volunteer work.
- Most programs will ask for references; these may be from professors, from work/volunteer supervisors, or a combination of both.
When should I start?
Begin the process at least 1 year before you plan to apply:
- Research programs to find deadlines and application requirements.
- Register and prepare for any standardized tests (e.g., GMAT, GRE) using books or a prep course or both.
- Complete your statement of purpose (personal statement, letter of intent) at least one month before the deadline to allow time for feedback.
- Update your resume and/or create a Curriculum Vitae (CV), which outlines the experience the program is looking for.
- Complete the online application before the deadline. Deadlines vary by program, but most fall between mid-October and mid-February, with a busy period in Dec/Jan.
- Approach your references well in advance of the deadline to request letters of reference. See our How to Ask for References guide.
You can use the Centre for Teaching and Learning's Assignment Calculator to figure out your Personal Statement and Graduate School Application overall process timeline.
Admission committees typically request a brief essay (500 to 2000 words), sometimes called a Personal Statement (also known as Statement of Interest or Purpose). It is a very important piece for assessing your fit for the program, and your writing ability.
Some schools provide prompt questions, so look for those! In general, these statements discuss:
- Your research and/or professional interests
- Your future goals and career plan
- How their institution and/or program will meet your goals
- What you will contribute to the program
We have two short exercises, led via video, to get you started on writing your personal statement!
Curriculum Vitae or CV
You may be asked to provide a resume, or you may be asked for an academic CV. They are related but different, as follows:
||Fellow academics in your field of study
||Hiring managers and human resources officers
||Applying to research-focused graduate studies and academic jobs
||Applying to professionally-focused graduate studies and jobs
||Display your academic credentials and accomplishments in great detail
||Demonstrate you have the skills and experience necessary relevant to a job or organization
|What readers see
||Your scholarly potential
||Your knowledge, skills and abilities
||Relevant course projects (essays, presentations, assignments), research experiences, publications, conference presentations, teaching experiences, awards
||Academic, work, and volunteer experiences that highlight your accomplishments
||As long as necessary
||2 pages maximum
||Include if requested
||Do not include
The following sample documents were developed by AA&CC staff and student staff, with input from faculty members:
Find more explanation and other useful examples here.
Funding and Finances
Your provincial student loan department (eg, OSAP) will typically support graduate and professional studies, if you are eligible!
There are often awards you can apply for. It is often easier to win a new award after you have already won one! Consider applying for internal and external awards and also research awards while you are still an undergraduate student.
After you are admitted, students in research/thesis-based programs may be eligible for a funding package from the institution (see U of T's as an example). Funding varies program by program, and school by school.
What if I Don't Get In?
Admission to graduate school is very competitive. It is valuable to have a back-up plan. Possibilities include:
- Reapply: Contact the program admissions staff and/or a faculty member to talk about ways to make your application stronger. The AA&CC can strategize with you on improving your next application as well.
- Find Work: The AA&CC can assist you with your job search for up to 2 years after graduation. Sometimes relevant experience improves your application.
- Consider Alternate Routes to Careers: Speak to a career advisor who can help you generate alternative career plans and alternate routes to similar destinations. See our Program Pathways, visit our library, and review our career-focused ebooks in the U of T library catalogue.
- Take a Post-Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate: Gain technical knowledge and skills to facilitate entry into a new field of work.
- Broaden your Horizons: Travel, volunteer, and experience new things!
Evaluate which of these possibilities is right for you. Use the services and events of the AA&CC to help you clarify goals and develop strategies.