| in Academics, GRS, Students

Director of Marketing and Enrollment at Boston University Graduate Schools of Arts and Sciences, Mr. Mark Khan, provides current graduate school application trends and tips to prospective students. 

What makes student applications exceptional

There are key factors in creating an outstanding student application. The first criterion is academic preparation, as a strong academic record and high achievement are essential. Secondly, in choosing applicants, faculty boards look for students’ alignment with their chosen program—to see that the potential student has done thorough research on the program and the faculty related to their interests. Lastly, faculty boards want to ensure these students would match the culture of the school and community by seeing what the student is going to bring to the table. This factor is “communicated through the student’s essay, the way their evaluators talk about them, their passion during the application/interview process, the research they’ve done, their extracurriculars, the papers they’ve chosen to be a part of, and other similar factors.”

What makes faculty boards steer away from student applications

Along with key factors that create an outstanding student application, there are potential red flags in these applications. First is a poor academic record seen through multiple repeated courses and lower grades. Faculty boards view this as students having less time to tackle difficult material that graduate school gives them. The second warning sign is a clear lack of authenticity, effort, and interest. When proving one’s interest, many include obvious facts about the university which doesn’t provide actual effort. Instead, universities want you to “focus on explaining why you’re the right fit for the university, and why the university is the right fit for what you’re trying to accomplish with your studies.” Universities are also turned away from students who copy resumes and cover letters word-for-word rather than using examples as templates. Lastly, a red flag is not researching the resume standards in the country the student wants to study in. This may give the wrong impression that the student is careless and is giving less effort to this application.


Do: Dont:
  • Maintain a good academic record
  • Repeating multiple courses if you can
  • Research the institution thoroughly (name-drop faculty members!)
  • Copy-pasting information from the university’s website
  • Outline why you’d be a good fit for the specific program you want to attend
  • Skipping on the university/program/faculty research
  • Show genuine passion and authenticity in your cover letter
  • Copying document templates verbatim
  • Get involved in extracurriculars related to the program you wish to study
  • Using poorly optimized resume/CV

Common Student Downfalls

  1. Trying to become the university’s “perfect image”

Especially for international students, applicants have a hard time getting used to the importance of individuality from US universities. They believe that the universities have an “ideal student profile they need to adhere to” where instead, universities want to see students’ quirks, personalities, and unique thoughts. This shows the authenticity of their application rather than adapting themselves to fit a mold. 

  1. Misusing ChatGPT in university applications

In a world of AI advancement, it’s alright and common to use ChatGPT as a tool. However, it should not be abused—one must “fact check the information listed in the generated text, adapt it, rewrite it, and make it your own.” It’s easy to tell when text is written by ChatGPT, which shows faculty boards that a potential student is not authentic or unique. 

To stand out in the modern job market, a graduate degree is essential

Seeking further education and training in specific areas can distinguish people among the increasing number of applicants. At Boston University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the most popular graduate programs are in economics, computer science, and statistical practice.

With Mr. Khan’s insights, it’s time for you to apply to one of our 30+ programs here at BU GRS. Read more about his insights to prepare yourself for the next step in your academic career in this Keystone Master Studies article


About the Author:

Tamar Ponte

Marketing & Communication Assistant, GRS

Bachelor of Science, Advertising