Latest posts by Daria Silter (see all)
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Last week I’ve made an exciting announcement that I was accepted into the school of my dreams – New York University (NYU), in just one week. And since some of you might be applying to your own schools soon, I wanted to share a bit of my personal experience about the application process. So let’s talk education.
In my opinion, a Master’s degree is even more important than Bachelor’s, and therefore it was very important for me to go to the best school. So how can one get into the top school? Is it the grades? The résumé? The reference letters? Or is it your own, personal statement that makes the biggest impact on the admission decision? The answer is: all of those things. They are all equally important – so let’s take a quick look into each.
The grades: every top school has a minimum grade requirement that it wants to see on your record. When I was studying for my Bachelor’s, I went through three different schools (all under the same academic network, called CUNY). My first college experience was a complete disaster. I was very depressed at that time, skipped and dropped classes, and did not care too much about my academic performance. That was during my second and third years in the U.S. My G.P.A. was around 2.3 (terrible!). Then I transferred to my second school, and with a clean and fresh start brought up my G.P.A. to 3.5. And then to a third, from which I finally graduated with a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.1.
Sometime after graduation, I went to study for professional certificate programs at NYU, which were all about the areas that I was very interested in (Accounting, Nonprofit Accounting, Fundraising, and Project Management). And because of my interest and dedication, I was able to get the best grades. Of course I have submitted these records along with my Bachelor’s degree.
Tip: if you do not have the best academic grade record, enroll into some professional, and/or post-graduate school that offers certificates, preferably one that you want to go to, ultimately. Here’s a “secret”: all the top schools have some kind of professional, non-degree, certificate programs, just do your research.
Yes, classes will probably be expensive, and you will have to pay out of pocket – but hey, nothing good comes easy, just remember your goal! (I had to pay for every one of my classes and in the beginning that meant spending every penny that I earned. Yep, as you can guess, I lived with my Mom at the time and didn’t pay rent). Also, as a huge bonus – it is very probable that that professional certificate might lead into career growth. Mine definitely paid off, BIG time!
The résumé: the most important factor on your résumé is your professional growth. And nothing shows growth better than different titles within the same organization. Once I realized that, I worked my tail off to get a promotion in my previous organization – which I quickly earned, twice.
Tip: as a manager that has been hiring people for the past several years now, and as someone who has been promoted from an entry to a manager level in less than two years, here is my advice: show initiative. Yes, “people skills” are very important, as well as working hard and staying late. But these two together will not get you ahead. What will is your initiative – that means inventing “things”, solving problems in an unorthodox way, taking control and ownership of an issue and ‘fixing’ it. We will talk more about this in a different post – on how to get promoted quickly.
Recommendations: while these are almost self-explanatory, the only advise I want to share here is to get them from someone who knows you really well (and likes you too, duh). If, for whatever reason, you are not on the best terms with your boss, then ask your colleague! Or even your ex-supervisor, or a professor. Your school doesn’t really care, as long as the references are professional and come from someone you know well (no, not your best friend, please). I got really lucky here because all of my supervisors have been absolutely amazing for the past few years, and I have developed good relationships with all of them.
Extra-Curricular Activities: this is one of the most critical factors on your application, that basically means – what else have you done, besides school and work? And here is the area where the sky is the limit.
Tip: go volunteering, run a marathon, receive an award (for whatever you’re good at), become a mentor, create and run a website, get published, organize an event – you get the idea (and yes, I have done all of those things).
Personal Statement: this last but not least factor is the final part where you can truly shine. Spend as much time as you can working on your personal statement and whatever you do – please do NOT EVER pay someone to write it for you. Please remember this: whoever reads your personal statement during your admission process is a very smart person with a lot of experience, someone who read thousands of college essays before and will smell a “fake” one from miles away.
Tip: even if you are not the best writer, the personal statement has to be what it wants you to be: personal. Use your own voice, read the instructions on what the essay should be about carefully and follow them. Stay on the topic, be direct, and show the admission committee why you are a good fit.
As a bonus, I am including my own, original essay, that I wrote exclusively for NYU below, during my own admission process. I hope that it will serve as a reference point and a helpful guide. Finally, please note – every single word in this essay is true, since I always mean what I say. 🙂
Enjoy, and Bonne Chance!