THE BLOG
11/05/2014 03:39 pm ET Updated Jan 05, 2015

5 Grad School Application Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making

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Common and simple mistakes, such as grammar errors and misspellings, can be detrimental to your graduate school application--they may even result in a rejection letter. However, there are also certain mistakes that are less obvious, but possibly just as damaging to your portfolio. Here are five specific errors to try to avoid as you work on your application to graduate school:

1. Crafting an off-putting personal statement
Your personal statement should explain your academic and employment background, your career goals, and why you will be successful at that particular institution. However, certain students make their personal statements a bit too personal by listing irrelevant or inappropriate information.

Personal statements may also seem insincere if you attempt to be overly altruistic or compassionate. Humor is another technique that often ends poorly when used in too large of doses. While you can demonstrate your personality, it is always best to keep your personal statement professional and focused on your accomplishments and goals. Try to find a good balance between featuring these various elements.

2. Writing a generic personal statement
Admissions counselors wish to learn why you are the perfect fit for their university. Therefore, it is imperative that you explain why you will be successful at their school in particular. For example, you might write about how the school's world-renowned laboratory equipment or its smaller student-to-professor ratio will help you succeed.

There may be similarities among different universities, but a unique personal statement proves that you understand the specific culture of the school at hand and can thrive within it.

3. Submitting an application at the wrong moment
Certain schools utilize rolling admissions processes in which there are no firm deadlines. They accept applications as long as seats are still available. However, competition typically increases toward the end of the cycle, as there are fewer seats remaining. So, if you apply early in the process, you may have a better chance of an acceptance. Keep a close eye on deadlines and consider them wisely.

4. Suggesting a lack of interest by being unfamiliar with the program
Read everything you can about the university. Follow its social media channels, subscribe to e-alerts, schedule informational chats with students or alumni, etc. In addition to providing meaty material for your application, this can also aid you in asking thoughtful questions during your eventual interview, all of which proves a genuine interest in the school.

5. Seeking recommendations in the wrong places
Many students try to ask the most prestigious individual at their undergraduate university or place of employment to write their letters of recommendation. However, the Dean or the CEO often does not know you well enough to craft a persuasive endorsement. Most programs want letters from someone who worked directly with you and with whom you have a strong relationship. You should also ensure that your recommenders will truly write a favorable letter.

Consider following the advice above to help your graduate school application display your best potential, as well as to help you avoid any unwanted mishaps. Best of luck with your applications!