Applying to Graduate School

Once you’ve considered your career goals, researched options and requirements for your field of interest, and determined that graduate school is a logical step towards entering your chosen field, the next step is to proceed through the application process. The following reviews application basics; however, programs may differ depending on the field of study. Review your program application requirements carefully.

Evaluating programs

  • Research schools and programs compatible with your interests
  • Ask professors and practitioners in your field about reputable schools and programs
  • Review faculty profiles, identify those with similar interests: talk with them about their research, whether they’re accepting new students in the coming year (and how many they are willing to supervise), and what they look for in graduate students
  • Visit the campus: meet the faculty, talk with students in the program, see the facilities and get a feel for the atmosphere of the program
  • Research program requirements (compulsory courses, research vs. thesis options, experiential opportunities available): Program focus and requirements will be discussed in information sessions (usually held in the Fall), check with the program department for dates
  • Evaluate financial assistance: grants, research and teacher assistantships and fellowships
  • Consider other factors: a school’s geographic location, reputation, campus and community life and student services

Parts of an application

Although standards and criteria vary across programs, one common factor is that the competition is intense. Factors that contribute to admission decisions include:

  • GPA: most schools look for a minimum B+ average during the last two years of undergraduate study
  • Suitability for the program: determined by the quality of your application, your research interests and your compatibility with the program/faculty research interests
  • Skills and experience: your research experience, volunteer/work experiences and extracurricular activities
  • Reference letters: the type of referee and relevance of their comments are weighed more heavily than the number of reference letters you submit
  • Admission test scores: if required (e.g., GRE)

Applications typically include Application Form, Application Fee, Pre-Requisite Courses, Transcripts from all Post-Secondary Institutions, References, Personal Statements.

They may also include Test scores (e.g., GRE, GMAT), Resume/Curriculum Vitae (CV), Writing Sample, Experiential Component (e.g., two years related experience), Supplementary Forms (e.g., application for funding).

For tips on creating a CV, check out the CV Worksheet or one of many print resources at the Career Centre.


You will need two to four references who can discuss your abilities, accomplishments and potential in your area of interest. Graduate programs will be interested in academic references who can attest to your ability to succeed in, and contribute to, a demanding academic program.

Personal statements

Admission committees are looking for statements that show insight into:

  • Your research/professional interests
  • Your future goals and career path
  • Why their school and program fits your goals
  • Your knowledge of, and experience in, the field
  • What you will contribute to their program

Some helpful links:

Admission tests 

Some programs require an admissions test (such as the GRE general and/or specific, or GMAT) as part of your application. The test must be written in advance to ensure scores are received by admission deadlines.

What if you don’t get in?

Given the level of competition for a position in graduate programs, it is important to have a backup plan. Possibilities include:

  • Reapply: contact the program admissions staff and/or faculty to talk about ways to make your application stronger and reapply in the next session
  • Find work: the UTM Career Centre can provide assistance with your job search for up to two years after graduation
  • Consider alternate careers: speak to a Career Counsellor, attend our Explore Your Career Options workshop, visit our website or library for resources on a variety of professions
  • Take a post-graduate diploma: gain industry specific knowledge and experience to facilitate entry into a profession in a related area
  • Broaden your horizons: travel, volunteer and experience new things

The most important aspect of forming a backup plan is to evaluate which of these possibilities is right for you. Use the services and support of the Career Centre to help you find your starting point.

How the Career Centre can help

  • Individual Appointments: meet with one of our professional Career Counsellors to discuss graduate school, personal statements etc.
  • Graduate and Professional Schools Fair: held in the fall term every year
  • Print Resources: many admission guides, including Pocket Guide to Graduate School Admissions, Graduate School Admissions Advisor, Making it into a Top Graduate School
  • Personal Statements/Essays: Graduate Admissions Essays, Mastering the Personal Statement, 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays and more
  • Other Resources: How to prepare your Curriculum Vitae, Putting your Graduate Degree to Work, Admissions Tests, Applying to Grad School Video and more


Applying to Grad School Tip Sheet

Graduate Studies: A Practical Guide

Personal Statement Tip Sheet

CV Worksheet

Graduate Programs in Ontario

Resources and Links for Further Education

Funding Information:

Funding for Graduate School Tip Sheet

Social Science Research Council of Canada

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Canadian Institute for Health Research

Ontario Graduate Scholarship

updated July 2023