Dos and Don’ts of Graduate School Applications

Colorful cartoon of a hopeful graduate school applicant at a desk, surrounded by thought bubbles depicting their journey, meeting with professors, library research, future career aspirations, considerations of finances, and overall happiness
Embark on your graduate school journey with clarity and purpose. This vibrant cartoon captures the essential steps and considerations every prospective student should think about.

         After nearly 20 years of helping people get into the graduate schools of their dreams, I have a clear sense of what works and doesn’t. Since most graduate programs open their admissions portals in the fall, if you’re reading this now (end of April), that means you’re likely at the very start of your journey to graduate school, so here are some tips.

         For many people, graduate school is the final step before embarking on a lifelong career. As a result, choosing the correct graduate school should be something you take very seriously. Keep these dos and don’ts in mind as you begin your search to help you make the right choice:

DO start your search early. Finding the right graduate school takes time and consideration. You’ll want to know the program you’ll be pursuing, the curriculum track that interests you the most, and the type of options each school has available.

DON’T choose a school based on name or ranking alone. The further along you get in your career, the more you’ll realize that if you’re not getting the education and guidance you actually need for success in your career, the name won’t make a difference. And five years after you graduate, nobody will care where you went. They’ll only care what you know how to do.

DO visit the schools in which you’re interested. Walk the campus, talk to professors, talk to the career placement office, and talk to current graduate students. Often LinkedIn can be an excellent way to connect with current and former students to ask them a few questions. Find out the types of jobs students are taking after graduating, see how invested the professors seem in their students’ futures, and test the responsiveness of the career services office to see if they’ll be an asset or a hindrance.

DON’T limit your choices too much. It’s important to cast a wide net when applying to schools. Especially at the start of the process. In addition to the schools that seem like perfect fits, pick a safety school or two just in case, as well as one or two schools that may seem completely out of reach given your scores and accomplishments.

DO research your desired industry. Find out what factors they consider when they hire out of school. What makes someone a good candidate for employment? What do they value, and what do they scoff at? Figuring it out from the perspective of your ultimate career will help you home in on a school that is right for you.

DON’T blitz apply to every program out there. While this seems like it might be a good solution, not only is it financially irresponsible, it’s also likely to hurt your chances. Instead of having the time to focus on perfecting the application and personalizing the essays for 4-6 schools, you’ll be pressed for time and likely to submit sub-par applications across the board. Remember, your personal statement for each respective school will need a fair amount of customization, which entails research, outlining, writing, and revising, so don’t overburden yourself to the point that you cannot complete all your applications in a way that makes your candidacy shine.

While the rank and reputation of a graduate school seem like the only reason to choose it, experts in every field will tell you that you’ll experience more success in life and your career if you choose a program that actually fits your needs. Make the effort to do your research and you’ll be rewarded in the long term.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Mastering the Boss Conversation: Strategies for Discussing Your MBA Goals

An anxious professional in a business suit stands hesitantly outside a closed office door labeled 'Boss.' He clutches an 'MBA Application' folder under one arm and is about to knock on the door with his other hand. The modern, sleek office hallway around him emphasizes the serious corporate environment. His expression is a mix of determination and nervousness, capturing a pivotal moment in his career.
Talking to your boss about your aspirations can be a nervous affair!


At Gurufi, we help hundreds of applicants each year get into their dream schools. One problem we repeatedly encounter is applicants being worried what their bosses will think about them applying for an MBA. Indeed, the decision to apply for an MBA can trigger a swirl of emotions, especially when it comes to discussing your plans with your employer. You might be feeling an odd mix of excitement about the next steps in your career and apprehension about how your current boss will react, particularly if you’ve recently been promoted. Rest assured, this is a common dilemma faced by many MBA applicants, and there are tactful ways to approach the situation.

Firstly, it’s essential to remember that applying for an MBA is a significant professional development step, not a sign of ingratitude or disloyalty. As you talk to your boss, keep this frame in mind and use it to inform your tone and thoughts. Even if you have recently been promoted, your pursuit of an MBA demonstrates your ambition and drive to further contribute to your organization or industry in the future.

It’s also worth noting that your boss, like any other professional, likely understands the importance of continuous growth and learning. If they have been supportive and instrumental in your career development thus far, chances are, they will be supportive of your decision to pursue an MBA as well. Remember, a recommendation from your boss can significantly strengthen your application, so it’s worth having an open and honest conversation with them about your, especially if you intend to return to the company upon earning your MBA.

Before you talk to your boss, have a clear idea about why you want to pursue an MBA. Being able to explain your motivations will not only help convince your boss that this is the right step for you, but also shows that you’ve thought seriously about this decision. The reasons can vary widely, from wanting to deepen your business acumen to intending to switch industries or roles, but the crucial thing is that your motivations align with your overall career trajectory.

When discussing your decision, focus on the positive outcomes an MBA could bring to your current organization. For instance, emphasize how the skills and knowledge you gain could benefit your team or department. You could even propose a way to stay connected with your current organization while pursuing your MBA, if this is a possibility and something you’d be interested in.

Timing is also crucial in such conversations. Consider your boss’s schedule and choose a time when they aren’t rushed or stressed. It’s best to schedule a dedicated meeting for this discussion rather than bringing it up casually or in a meeting with a different focus.

As for the conversation itself, honesty is the best policy. Start by expressing your gratitude for the opportunities and support you’ve received so far, including the recent promotion. Explain that you’re discussing this with them because you value their opinion and would appreciate their support.

Then, outline your reasons for wanting to pursue an MBA, ensuring to tie them back to your professional growth and how this could potentially benefit the organization. It’s essential to convey that this decision is about your long-term career development and isn’t reflective of any dissatisfaction with your current role or company.

When it comes to requesting a letter of recommendation, be straightforward and respectful. Acknowledge that it’s a significant request and assure them that you understand if they need some time to think it over. If they agree, make it as easy as possible for them by providing a summary of key points that they might include in the letter.

But what if you aren’t intending to return to the company or are looking to transition into a new industry?

When preparing to discuss your departure for an MBA with your boss, approach the conversation with professionalism and transparency. Begin by scheduling a private meeting, ensuring an environment conducive to a respectful and focused discussion. Start by expressing gratitude for the opportunities and experiences gained at the company, acknowledging how they’ve contributed to your professional growth and decision to pursue further education.

Clearly communicate your intention to pursue an MBA to transition into a new industry or company. Be honest about your career aspirations, emphasizing that this decision aligns with your long-term professional goals. It’s important to be clear that your path forward involves moving on from the company, but do so respectfully, highlighting your positive experiences.

Offer to provide a smooth transition, including training a replacement or documenting your responsibilities. This demonstrates responsibility and respect for the company’s needs. Be prepared to discuss the timing of your departure, aiming for a mutually agreeable timeline.

Finally, maintain a tone of gratitude and professionalism throughout the conversation. Your goal is to leave on good terms, preserving professional relationships and networks for the future

Remember, while you might feel nervous about this conversation, it’s a normal part of the MBA application process. Most bosses will respond positively to your ambition and drive, and will want to support you in your next career step. Even if they express concerns or disappointment about your potential departure, maintaining open and respectful communication can help ease the transition for both parties.

It’s normal to feel apprehensive about discussing your MBA plans with your boss, especially if you’ve recently received a promotion. However, by approaching the conversation with honesty, tact, and a clear vision of your future career goals, you can not only gain their understanding but potentially their support and a powerful letter of recommendation as well.

For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top MBA programs. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.