Step 3: Take Admissions Tests and Complete Applications

Step 1: Decide if Graduate School Is Right for You
Step 2: Identify and Research Graduate or Professional Programs
Step 4: Choose the Best Program for You
Step 5: Find Ways to Fund Your Future Education

Step 3: Take Admissions Tests and Complete Applications

This part of the process requires a high attention to detail. If you know that’s one of your skills that’s great. You probably already have your color coded notebook and a full stack of graduate program information sheets in alphabetical order and have a detailed study schedule for your admissions exam. If it’s not one of your skills, it’s important to keep organized here. Take one of the free online diagnostic practice tests to figure out your testing strengths and weaknesses. Then set up a study schedule for yourself. Keep all your application materials together, read them carefully, and keep a note card or sheet of paper for each school listing each required piece of the application form where you can check off and date it when that piece is mailed. This may be a struggle for you if you’re more of a free spirit, but a low attention to detail here can cost you admission to your top program.

Test Information & Registration

The first part of this step is studying for, registering for, and taking your standardized test. Depending on which type of graduate or professional school you choose, you will need to take a different admissions test. Below some of the more popular test are listed.

GRE Online The Graduate Record Exam is THE admissions test used for most graduate programs. The most important part of the GRE is the General Test, which is offered only in the Computer Adaptive format at Sylvan Learning Centers across the country. Our nearest test center is in East Syracuse (1-315-433-9038). The test is scored on a 200-800 scale for each of the GRE's three categories: Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing. If you are hoping to enroll in graduate school the fall after you graduate, you should take the GRE before the end of November of your senior year.

In addition to the General Test, the GRE includes Subject Tests in the following fields: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology; Chemistry; Computer Science; Literature in English; Mathematics; Physics; and Psychology. If you are applying to a graduate program in one of these areas, you may be required to take the appropriate Subject Test in addition to the General Test. You should call each graduate school to which you are applying and find out what your program requires. These tests are pen and pencil only and are administered at St. Lawrence in early November and SUNY Potsdam in early December.

Information booklets for the GRE General and Subject Tests are available at Career Services.

LSAT The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day multiple-choice test used by law schools to help them to select candidates. It's divided into five multiple-choice sections (four scored and one experimental) in the following areas: Logical Reasoning I & II(Arguments), Analytical Reasoning (Logic Games), and Reading Comprehension. It also includes one analytical writing section. Each test has 101 questions, and neither the experimental section nor the writing sample counts toward your score. The multiple-choice sections may be given in any order, but the writing sample is always administered last. If you plan to attend law school in the fall following your senior year, most law schools require that you take the LSAT by December of your senior year. It is best, however, to take the exam early so that you can retest if necessary. The test is administered at St. Lawrence all four times during the year (June, October, December, and February).

MCAT The Medical College Admission Test is multiple-choice, standardized exam, is required by almost all U.S. medical schools. The MCAT is a paper and pencil exam and consists of four timed sections in Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences administered over a period of more than seven hours. Scores for each section range from 1 – 15 with the exception of the Writing Sample which is given a letter score. The exam is offered twice a year in April and August and registration is only available online at the address above. You should plan to take the exam in April of your junior year for fall admission to medical school following your St. Lawrence graduation.

Note: The new MCAT exam will be first administered for in the spring of 2015.  The first examinees to take the MCAT 2015 exam will be those who apply to medical school in the fall of 2016. 

GMAT The Graduate Management Admissions Test is required by most business schools across the country. This computer adaptive test, like the GRE, is offered at Sylvan Learning Centers across the country. Our nearest test center is in East Syracuse (1-315-433-9038). The GMAT includes two analytical writing assessments, a quantitative section, and a verbal section.

Test Preparation

Preparing for your admissions test is critical. With the exception of the MCAT and GRE Subject test, most of the exams focus on testing analytical reasoning, verbal, and quantitative skills. Being familiar with the format and style of the tests and refreshing your skills in these areas will lead to a better score. Career Services and Leadership Education offers several tools to help you to prepare for your admissions test including test preparation manuals in our library and test preparation software on our lab computers. We also work with Kaplan to offer three on-campus preparation courses, one each for the GRE, MCAT, and LSAT. If you do all the required work, Kaplan will guarantee you a higher score! Information on courses and the higher score guarantee is available at the link above or at Career Services and Leadership Education.

The sites below will also offer you information on test preparation courses and programs.

Clarkson University's Test Prep Courses are offered at Clarkson University for the GRE (Graduate Record Exam), GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) and SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test).

Peterson’s Test Prep This site has test help for the GRE, GMAT, MCAT and LSAT. Just check out the graduate school testing section.

Princeton Review - For students who wish to continue their education we offer comprehensive courses for all the major graduate and professional standardized tests, as well as a career program to help anyone looking for a fulfilling career in today's vast and varied job market.

The Delta Course - The Delta Course offers a free daily GMAT practice question by e-mail as well as online GMAT study guides and practice questions.


There are two main rules when it comes to applications. Follow the rules and adhere to deadlines. In fact, in many cases, the earlier you complete your application is complete, the better your chances for admittance. Although each application is different they typically have four key sections: Application Form & Resume, Reference Letters, Personal Statement, and Transcript Report.

Application Form & Resume The application form is pretty straight forward and will ask you information similar to that of college applications. Many applications are now available on-line and can either be filled out and then printed or submitted electronically. Most graduate school applications will be found on the individual university sites; however, for medical (AMCAS) and law schools (LSDAS) there are services that allow you to complete one application for multiple programs. In many cases, a resume is required as part of the application. You should begin requesting applications from graduate programs in late August and early September. Applications for graduate study are usually due between December 1 and March 1 prior to the fall of admission.

Personal Statement Personal statements vary widely from application to application. Some ask you to respond in point to a series of questions while others provide a list of questions they would like you to cover in a single essay. It is very important that you answer all questions and adhere to the length guidelines provided. The essay is used to determine several criteria including writing style, motivation, program fit, and clarity of career goals. These are all important to graduate institutions in determining the likely hood of program completion. You should write several drafts of your personal statement, and many eyes should review it before you submit it. Make sure a faculty member and/or a Career Services and Leadership Education professional advisor reviews it for you. For more information on personal statements, visit the link below or visit Career Services and Leadership Education. On this Web site you will find comprehensive advice on the writing tasks associated with applying to graduate and professional schools as well as general information on the admissions process. It’s an excellent resource for law, medical, business, and graduate school applicants.

Reference Letters Choose your references wisely. Choose faculty members, staff advisors or supervisors, internship or employment supervisors that know you very well and that you know will speak highly of you. Once you decide who you would like to ask to serve as a reference for you, you should ask them as soon as possible, preferably in the summer prior to your senior year of in the first month of classes. You should provide each of your references with the necessary reference forms filled out properly, an addressed and stamped envelope, and a copy of your resume. If your personal statement is completed, it will also be helpful to them. You should give your references at least one month advance notice for each reference, although the first one they write will require the most amount of time.

Transcripts To complete your graduate school application, you will need to request official transcripts from the registrar’s office. It’s important that you allow enough time for your transcripts to be processed keeping in mind that you’re likely not the only student applying to graduate or professional school in the late fall or early spring. You’ll find all the information you need and the Transcript Request Form on the registrar’s website.
Once you’ve completed and mailed your applications, it’s important to call the graduate admissions office and in many cases the graduate program itself to make sure that your materials have been received and your application file is complete. Some institutions will send you status reports, but many will not. Once you’ve completed this part of the process then it’s time to sit and wait for them to make their decisions.