Updated on Wednesday 6 March 2013
Applying for graduate school can be a hassle if you do not begin preparing in time. There are forms, tests, essays, and letters of recommendation that need to be sent to universities months before you plan on actually attending. This article will help aspiring economics students prepare for the application process and also provide some tips for standing out from your peers.
Although the application process for an economics degree is different for undergraduate and graduate schools, both require you to find ways to stand out from your fellow applicants. This article is a good place to start for international students wishing to look their best when applying to economics degree programs in the US.
The application process for an economics degree requires that you take the SAT and/or the ACT test. Either one is acceptable, so I suggest taking the one you think you will do the best on. The SAT is focused more on testing a student’s reasoning skills, while the ACT is focused more on knowing particular facts. Different people tend to do better in one over the other, so take some online practice tests if you need in order to see which is right for you. If you find you are still unable to make up your mind, you can always take both and send in the higher score of the two.
International students also need to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOFEL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) tests. These will measure your knowledge of English and let the universities know you are familiar enough with the language to attend an English-speaking campus. Universities do this because they want to make sure you can follow what is being said in class and interact with your teachers and fellow students.
Along with these test scores, you will want to send in an application which includes a list of your extracurricular activities. These activities include volunteer work, hobbies, community activities, and anything else you believe showcases the things that make you unique as a potential student. If you have done any special projects in the field of economics, definitely bring this up too.
The graduate application process for an economics degree begins while you are still an undergrad. Right away you should begin forming a relationship with your professors. Make sure to ask questions during class, interact with your classmates, and visit your professor during his or her office hours whenever you get a chance. This will ensure that you will be able to acquire at least 3 letters of recommendation by the time you graduate. Ideally, the professors you choose to write your letter of recommendation should have a high opinion of you and your work. Also, if a professor happens to have graduated from a school you are interested in or is well known, you should try to have one of your letters be from him or her.
The next thing you need to do is take the Graduate Record Examination or GRE. This test focuses on verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills and you must take it before applying to graduate schools. Colleges will often give you the minimum score requirements on their websites so you have a general idea of what to shoot for. Due to the focus on math in graduate school economics programs, international students should make sure they have high scores in the quantitative section of the test. To prepare, you should buy a book with sample test questions, or even take a GRE class.
Lastly, you will have to write an admissions essay. This is a good way to demonstrate your writing skills, which are also an important part of graduate school. You will send this essay with your application, and if it is good enough it can help break the tie between you and a similarly qualified student. International students who do not feel entirely comfortable with their English should have a native speaker read over the essay (perhaps even a professor). Make sure the essay is clear, concise, and does not make simple mistakes such as refer to the incorrect school. You will have to write several of these, so it could be easy to mix up schools and other basic facts if you are not careful.