Dear Future Teachers,
I am excited to finally announce that I have gotten into grad school this past week!! I have been accepted into the Master of Arts in Teaching program at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is an intensive 1-year program that will result in a Master's Degree and recommendation for N.C. teaching licensure. I will be in the Elementary Education track, which will lead to licensure in grades K-6. I am super excited to begin the next steps in my journey to becoming a teacher!
That being said, I wanted to share a little bit about the process to applying to grad school since I know that there are other future educators who might want to pursue a similar track!
Each program will have slightly different expectations and requirements, but I'm going to try to share a general version of the things I had to do while applying.
There were several components to the MAT application.
Pre-requisite courses. Some programs will require you to take and pass specific classes in order to be admitted. These classes usually provide some background info that you will build on throughout your program. Each track in the MAT program had specific pre-requisites. As an Elementary Educator, I had to take a linguistics course, a certain math course, and a learning and development course. There were also "highly recommended" courses that I completed as well. For Secondary Education, the requirements differ and are more specific to content area. For example, a Secondary Science teacher would need 24 credit hours in science courses such as Biology or Chemistry. Each program may have their own acceptable courses, so it's important to check which courses you will need for each graduate program you wish to apply to.
Letters of recommendation. Most, if not all, grad schools require letters of recommendation from people who can attest to your academic ability or your field experience. For the UNC MAT program, at least three letters are required (but you can submit more!) My program required at least one faculty member to write on my behalf. The amount of letters of recommendation may vary, and it is important to pay attention to what kind of recommenders your grad program is looking for (professors, employers, community members, etc.)
Transcripts. My grad program asked for an unofficial transcript, but some programs may request an official transcript. Official transcripts must be ordered from your school and usually have a small fee attached to them. Even if an application asks for an unofficial transcript, it is likely that they will require an official transcript upon your admission to the program.
GPA. There is a minimum GPA requirement for graduate programs. At UNC, the MAT program required at least a 3.0, but other schools may have different GPA expectations. If you apply with a GPA that is lower than the minimum requirement, your grad program may ask for a written explanation as to why your GPA is lower than anticipated.
Statement of Purpose. Similar to most undergraduate programs, grad programs usually require a Purpose Statement or Statement of Purpose. This is an essay where you get to tell admissions officers why you want to join the program, why you are a good candidate, and other information that indicates your dedication or passion for pursuing the degree. Some programs may have questions available to guide your response!
Resume. Your resume is where you get to highlight the different roles you've held that are relevant to your program! You can include jobs, student organizations, volunteer experiences, and more.
Test Scores. The majority of grad school programs will require an exam called the GRE, or Graduate Record Examinations. This is a standardized test that evaluates some of the skills they wish to see in their applicants. My program did not require the GRE, but used to require PRAXIS examinations in Social Studies and Science. Due to COVID-19, some schools have paused testing requirements or done away with them completely. I did not have to take exams prior to applying, but I know I will have PRAXIS exams before I earn my licensure.
Residency Status. In order to appropriately charge your tuition, most schools will require you to claim residency. In-state tuition is normally less expensive than out-of-state tuition in public institutions. Residency status is usually embedded in the application and requires you to provide different documents to prove you are an in-state or out-of-state resident.
Fees. Most schools require an application fee. This fee would be paid upon submission of the application. Some people are qualified for a waiver for the application fee.
Interviews. After my application was submitted, the next phase of the process was to complete an interview. The interview process can vary widely based on the program and/or school you apply to. In my case, my interview was a group interview, where a panel of faculty asked questions and proposed scenarios to think through, and applicants also interviewed as a group. Other programs may require a series of interviews, can be 1-on-1, can be panel style, etc.
This can seem like a LOT of information, and it may be a little overwhelming. I wanted to provide a few tips and tricks to help support you during your grad school application process!
Tips and Tricks
For pre-requisite courses, check in with your program regularly! They should have any pre-requisite courses posted on their websites, and you can reach out to advisors or admissions counselors to keep up with any changes to the pre-requisites. In my experience, the requirements shifted right before it was my time to begin applying to the program. In the event of a shift in requirements, make sure to check in to see which changes apply to your application cycle!
With letters of recommendation, begin building connections and relationships with your professors, employers, etc. early! Find recommenders who are related to your intended field of study, and who know you well enough to give a detailed and positive recommendation. I also recommend asking them early, especially if you are reaching out to professors who may be asked by dozens of students for recommendation letters on top of the courses they already teach. Give recommenders plenty of time to write a quality letter! You can provide a resume or other documents for your recommenders to reference specific examples of your work in their letter.
For your Statement of Purpose. Look up examples online, write drafts and re-write your drafts, and attend a workshop! You want your statement of purpose to reflect who you are and really stand out to admissions offices. There are a plethora of resources online, and many colleges/universities provide workshops or 1-on-1 support for editing your essay!
When creating or editing your resume there are a few tips you can use! Sign up for a resume workshop at your undergraduate campus or in your community to have someone make suggestions for a stronger resume. You can also find sample resumes online! I have provided my resume template download that I used for my resume below!
Finally, for your interview. Take a deep breath! Interviews can be super intimidating, but when you feel well-prepared and confident, it can make the whole process a little bit more breathable. Look up sample questions for education programs, refresh yourself on your resume and personal statement, and give answers that are true to you!
Applying to grad school is a big decision, and it is full of a lot of different emotions! Make sure to be well-prepared and take initiative with your application and you will be sure to stand out. If you have any other tips for applying, or any specific questions about grad school, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Contact Form on my Home Page!