Graduate schools are diverse in their programs, and program-specific requirements will vary from school to school. Here's some general advice, from my experience:
- Almost all Graduate Schools will require some Letter of Intent or essay from you explaining why you want to do the specific program. Here, you'll want to list out your interest and passion for the field of study, what you've done that demonstrates you'll do well in the program, and what you plan on doing with your degree. For research-intensive graduate programs, they'll most likely want to see you've done some work related to the field, such as assisting in a lab, or an understanding of the work required by a graduate in this field.
- Graduate schools also desire some form of work outside your time studying; this can be volunteer work, part-time work, or extracurricular activities. Your time in graduate school will be intense - hence, the committees will want to see that you're able to balance having a life while studying, and, more importantly, that you know how to manage your time.
- As for GPA, it depends on the graduate school program. Some programs will require a specific minimum GPA, while some programs may be more holistic i.e. a lower-than-average GPA may be offset by other experiences, such as a history of volunteering, part-time work positions or leadership roles in extracurricular activities.
- Some programs will require prerequisites; for example, some medical school programs will require you to have classes in biology, organic chemistry, or physics, in which case you'll have to ensure you finish these during your time in university.
- Examinations: some programs, like MBA's or business Master's programs will require a test called the GMAT. Some programs will often require a candidate to do the GRE, which is not business-school specific but can be taken by business schools or otherwise. The GRE also has versions that may be specific to your discipline, such as Psychology.
In general, though, graduate schools will often want students who exhibit higher-than-average marks during their undergraduate degree, some form of volunteering (may or may not be related to the program), and reference letters that can clearly show you'll be able to stand the rigors of your graduate program. Remember, some programs are more holistic in their admissions process; while some will focus almost solely on academics.
Start your research into graduate school options early! Once you've done some preliminary research (such as figuring out what the length of the program is, what's required from you, etc.) I always advise students to speak to the admissions managers to get some more insight (and ask smart questions).
And, if possible, see if you can contact current graduate students or alumni to get an idea of the student life during the program. The committee will be glad to see you're reaching out, and asking the right questions to the right people.
Kevin recommends the following next steps:
- Start your research into the type of graduate programs you see yourself attending
- Contact the Admissions rep or Manager once you've done some basic research into the program of choice
- Get an idea of the student life and day-to-day expectations by contacting a current student or alumnus through LinkedIn