Final Checklist: Round One

For those of you who are nearing the finish line on your applications, now is a good time to do a systematic review your application to make sure you have everything you need to submit a stellar application. Let’s walk through the various themes that you need to check before each application submission.


The brand is the forest among the trees. As you go through the admissions process you can often get stuck reviewing your application (all of it – essay, resume, etc.) and forget to take a step back and make sure the application is telling your brand story. Your application should have a theme about who you are through demonstrated character traits, why you want the degree, how you’re going to use the degree and why you are the best candidate for that school. If brand development is done well, you give the admissions team a clear idea of why you should be accepted so that they can advocate for you.

Questions to think about when checking your brand:
Do you have a clear application brand?
How would an admissions officer explain your brand?


The resume is a snapshot of your academic, professional and, to a lesser extent, personal experiences. The resume may be the only thing your interviewer reviews (blind interview), so it needs to be well thought out. Your resume should do a good job of “showing” not “telling”. Make sure your resume is specific, complete with details about your impact. (Your resume should not be able to be copied and used for a colleague with the same position title) Don’t forget to include something about your interests as these facts can be used as a great conversation starter.

Does your resume emphasize your brand traits?
Does your resume meet application standards (e.g. pdf, 1 page)?
Can the resume stand on its own as an introduction to your background?

Essays and Personal Statement

Your essays and personal statement are the window into your soul. They are your one opportunity to make the case to the admissions team that you are the right applicant for that coveted spot! Make sure your essays are well laid out, thoughtful and actually answer the questions. If you can cut and paste the essay and insert into another school’s essay prompt, you may not have done a good enough job customizing the essay for that school. Schools want you to deliver essays that are insightful and catered to the specific question, so make sure you’ve spent the time customizing each essay for that specific essay prompt.
Does the essay answers ALL the questions in the prompt?
Does the essay meet the length and formatting requirements?
Do you have the right school name and customization for each essay?


Well prepared recommenders can be a huge asset to your application. Make sure you’ve given your recommenders all the necessary information; schools you are applying to, deadlines, and the areas you want them to focus on. Use your recommenders strategically to bolster your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses. Make sure they clearly understand deadlines and, ideally, have submission deadlines well in advance of the actual submission deadlines.
Have you confirmed the recommenders have received the recommendation links and are actively working on your recommendations?
Do the recommenders know what you expect out of them (i.e. what to highlight, why you’re pursuing graduate school, long-term goals, etc.)?

Application – Short Answer Essays, General Demographic Info, etc.

By far the most underappreciated part of the entire application process is the actual application. You know the part that you have to fill out in order to upload your essays and personal statement. It includes general information about you, short answer essays, program intent (i.e. which school are you applying for) and other basic information. However, don’t take this part of the application lightly, especially not the short answer essay section. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate excellence where others cut-and-paste from their resume or other applications. It’s truly an opportunity for you to differentiate, so spend the time crafting well thought out answers to the questions.
Did you answer all of the short answer essay questions?
Did you check to make sure the basic information was filled out correctly (spelling, grammar, etc.)?


There might not be much to do on the interview front prior to submission, but some schools have an open interview policy. If the school has an open interview policy, schedule your interview as soon as you are ready in order to secure your choice date for an interview. If it’s an invitation-only or interview-optional process, you just need to wait.
Check the interview policy. If it’s open interview, schedule your interview now.

Standardized Test

Your standardized test needs to be completed before submission. In most cases you don’t need to submit the official score, but you may need to send the official score post-submission or upon request. In some cases you may need to submit a test “update” to the school, but if you are planning to take the standardized test post-submission, the suggestion is to take it within 2-3 weeks of application submission to ensure the school will accept the score update.
Are you standardized tests scheduled prior to submission and/or completed?
Does the school accept scores post submission?

Final Review

The first thing you need to think about before clicking “submit” is whether you are actually ready for submission. If you feel rushed or that your application is not well developed, Round 1 may not be the best solution for you. You should only apply when you feel 100% ready. A great Round 2 application is much better than a good round 1 application.

In addition, have someone else read your application. You’ve spent countless hours preparing your resume, strategizing, writing and editing your essays, and begging recommenders. Don’t get to the finish line and stop – get some fresh eyes on your application to see the things you may be oblivious to at this point. Admit Advantage is more than happy to review your application and provide you with detailed edits as well as macro comments with directional suggestions. If you’ve read this far, you deserve a break on our services, so use discount code Final to receive a 10% discount on our services. Good luck with submission!