The usual criteria are GPA, letters of recommendation, admission test scores, application essay, an appropriate undergraduate degree, and evidence of creative talent (e.g., samples of evidence of previous work related to the discipline). Usually the total student record is examined closely, and weight assigned to specific criteria may fluctuate from student to student. Few, if any, institutions base their decisions purely on numbers (test scores and GPAs).
The actual process graduate schools follow in making decisions also varies. Generally, schools employ clerical personnel whose job it is to make sure files are complete. Usually files are then sent directly to the academic departments. Here a faculty committee (or the department chairperson) will make recommendations to the chief graduate school officer (usually a graduate dean or vice president), who is responsible for the final admission decision.
There are several common barriers to graduate and professional school admission about which you should be aware:
- Deadlines not met.
- Unrealistic assessment of admissions criteria and unreasonable expectations of admissibility.
- Inappropriate application essay.
- Inappropriate undergraduate curriculum.
- Weak or ineffective recommendation letters.
- Incomplete application and inadequate follow-up checks (often transcripts and recommendation letters not received).
- Weak academic record (poor grades) and/or low admission test scores.
- Lack of research activity, extracurricular activities, etc.