The Guide

Applying to North American graduate school is a tricky business, even more so if your initial degrees are from elsewhere. Universities assume you are familiar with the standards and formats of different parts of the application and, too often, a lack of awareness of these norms is misunderstood as a lack of preparation. These tendencies can disadvantage students whose education has been outside North America and Britain. For this reason, the following pages lay out in detail the different facets of the application process.

The guide below is divided into five parts. A link to each section is below. We do recommend, however, that you proceed in order and read through all the sections fully, since sometimes one section builds off information present in the others.

The Guide to Graduate Applications in the Humanities:

Part One: Selecting Your Schools

Part Two: Contacting Potential Supervisors and Recommenders

Part Three: The Statement of Purpose

Part Four: The Writing Sample

Part Five: Funding

Once you have read through the various parts of this guide, please also turn to our Samples section, which hosts successful writing samples and statements of purpose of current graduate students in the U.S. and Canada.


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  1. Excellent initiative. Kindly remind the prospective candidates about the requirement of having done some voluteering work as one of the requirements of admissions. Study the prospectus of any world class educational institution and you will invariably find a special section devoted to the volunteer experience you have. In 2016, more than 80 top educational institutions of the USA endorsed the report prepared by the Harvard University regarding promotion of ethical character and achieving greater fairness and integrity in the college admissions process. The report offers specific recommendations for reforming the admissions process in each of the following three areas:
    promoting more meaningful contributions to others, community service, and engagement with the public good;
    assessing students’ ethical character and contributions to others in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture, and class; and
    redefining achievement in ways that both level the playing field for economically diverse students and reduce excessive achievement pressure.
    Based on this Report, for example, one of the required essays for getting admission in MIT specifically asks the prospective candidates to highlight their contributions to the public good by asking the following question;
    “At MIT, we seek to develop in each member of our community the ability and passion to work collaboratively for the betterment of humankind. How have you improved the lives of others in your community? (This could be one person or many, at school or at home, in your neighbourhood or your state, etc.)”
    Harvard being the global leader in educational field, expect this policy to be universally applied in top ranking educational intuitions in most of the countries. Those responsible for making decision about your admission or otherwise will give a high weight to your volunteering activities. In fact, if you have not been successful to get good grades in your educational career, your volunteering experience may compensate you for the deficiency.


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