What Makes Graduate Applications Successful?

What Makes Graduate Applications Successful?

QS Staff Writer

Updated January 28, 2022 Updated January 28

Admissions directors reveal the full range of information they use when assessing graduate applications, and the qualities that make a top applicant.

Most graduate school applications will require you to submit record of your previous qualifications, English language test results, a covering letter and your CV.

"Dutch universities are highly selective," says Carla Fluhr, Director of Recruitment for the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. "Students are selected based on their educational background, achievements and motivation."

Broad range of considerations

For an economics and business university like Bocconi, candidates often need to provide a dossier with external tests, such as the GMAT or an English language certificate. These take time to prepare and often have their own deadlines which need to be taken into consideration as well.

"Every single step of the admission process is equally important," says Cayetana Aranzadi, Associate Director of Admissions at Spain's IE Business School. "We value a balance between the application form, GMAT/GRE, IE's admissions test and the formal interview."

Aranzadi says IE also assesses potential for development: those inherent skills in each candidate that we want to develop during the program so s/he can become an excellent professional and IE ambassador.

"Our future representatives should be innovative, think out of the box, have international exposure, the ability to express their ideas, listen to others, be idea generators and have a social conscience to promote business in an ethical way."

Demonstrate career progression

The University of New South Wales looks for students with a strong academic background from a good university, in an area of study that follows a logical progression towards the desired area of graduate study, says International Director Aleksandr Voninski.

"Professional experience is taken into account, as are test scores. For example, while GMAT is only required for our MBA, a high score will be of great advantage for the admission to other business programs," he adds. "Professional experience is highly regarded in areas such as design, engineering and architecture."

However, if you're looking for a change of career, chances are you want to study a subject in which you have no experience or previous education. "Certain graduate programs are designed to give students without any background in a certain field the ability to move their careers down a different path," Voninski says.

Top Tip: Make sure you read the fine print. If you miss something out of your application, you're already one step behind the other candidates who did. It all comes back to giving yourself enough time to prepare.

This article was originally published in October 2012 . It was last updated in January 2020