5 Things to Keep in Mind Before Applying to Grad School

As I mentioned previously, I came to Barcelona to start graduate school. One of the main reasons why I decided to continue my studies is that I believe in building from knowledge. 

Now, speaking about the experience, this has been such a journey. I followed the trace of universities, prepared a bunch of applications, interviewed with different people and even read books about the subject (you can find books about anything)

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For those of you who want to follow this path soon, or perhaps would want to in the future, I want to outline some important tips: 
 

1. Do it for the right reasons: 

Please don't do it just to get a masters degree, do it because you believe in what you're going to learn. Do it because you are passionate about the subject or you see how that knowledge will be beneficial in the long term.

Ask yourself: what is it that I want to obtain from this experience?

One fundamental reason behind going to grad school is that it is an exploration towards another area of design. Beyond my background in architecture which has shaped me strongly, I am also interested in product design. It is a matter of scale and proximity, and I also see great potential for innovation in this realm.

 Why product design?

Why product design?

 

2. Research, research, research:

I cannot emphasis this enough. You really have to find out if what the university offers in that specific program meets your needs. Read all of the informaton on their website and if you know someone who studied there ask them about their experience. Also, there most certainly will be someone available from the institute's team who can answer your questions. Make an appointment.

Stalk them as much as possible and get as much information as you can. It is highly valuable to make a decision.

I have friends who started a program and then discovered that it was not what they expected. Try to minimize that possibility. It will be a huge investment of time and money so make it worth it.

 

3. Get all your transcripts as soon as possible:

This can take a lot of time, so start getting all the necessary information, ideally months before your application deadline.

Verify those dates with anticipation, some masters have "early applications", which can actually give you advantage if you are applying for scholarships and fellowships, so don't wait until last minute.

 

4. Tailor your personal statement:

Most grad school applications will require you to submit a personal statement. This is your chance to really stand out from the crowd. My recommendation is to show you've spent time researching the course and the university you're applying to, and tell your story in a sincere way. 

Give a glimpse to your strenghts, talk about your results and previous accomplishments specifically, and the reasons behind you wanting to pursue that particular academic path.

This means that every program you apply to will require a different personal statement. Do the work.

 

5. Get your letters of recommendations right:

It’s also important to choose referees who are able to support and endorse your personal statement, by reiterating the same claims you’ve made about yourself. It is better to choose referees who know you well ― teachers whom you have close relationship with or people who are familiar to your work professionally ― who can speak to the fantastic qualities that make you unique and exceptional.

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Most importantly, go step by step.

Even though it can be overwhelming, enjoy the process and celebrate your wins. For me it was an emotional roller coaster; I cheered, I got stressed, and I cried, but at the end I got accepted into 5 of 6 applications in top design institutes like the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago and La Sapienza in Rome, and I got offered important scholarships, which was pretty awesome.

But since there are a lot of factors involved (your passions, finances, timing, etc.), take your time to evaluate until you are sure of your decision.

It is also advisable to spend some time building experience (2-4 years of professional practice) after you finish your undergraduate degree to give you more knowledge about your industry. It can even be a prerequisite of a program you may like.

I spent about a year in this application process until I made my decision and my work experience has definitely given me more understanding about the architectural and design industry and what I'm passionate about.

And remember, you will not only learn about the universities in this process, you will also learn a lot about yourself.