Graduate school enrollment increased about 67 percent between 1985 and 2007, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2008, there were approximately 1.4 million people enrolled as first-year graduate students. A little more than half were female. Since 1984, the number of women in graduate schools has typically surpassed that of males. If you hope to join their ranks, continue reading to find out how to get into graduate school.

Before you can apply to graduate school you must have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Because graduate school admission officers are looking for students who will be able to handle the pressure that will accompany the pursuit of an advanced degree, applicants typically must have at least a 3.0 GPA in the most recent two years of study to be considered.

Most schools offer online applications to make the process easier. But applying can be costly because fees are usually about $50 per school. Note that some schools will waive the application fees if you qualify for financial aid assistance. But since graduate school is highly competitive it's recommended that you apply to as many as possible, with five a good number to keep in mind. Two should be schools that will most likely accept you, two should be ones that may and one should be a reach.

As with a four-year undergraduate college or university, there are certain materials that you must submit to be considered for graduate school. These include transcripts; GRE (Graduate Record Exam) scores; essays or personal statements answering the programs' prompts; and as many as three letters of recommendation. Some schools may also require the submission of additional application materials and or procedures. For instance, those applying to a Master's of Journalism or Graphic Design program will most likely be asked to submit a portfolio or samples of their best work. Students applying to Master's of Music or Theater Arts programs will probably have to audition. Some programs, like a Master's of Criminal Justice, may also stipulate that applicants have at least one to two years of work experience in the field. International students will need to submit TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores to prove their proficiency. Be sure to look up specific admission requirements early on in the process so that you're prepared. After admission officers review submitted material, a phone or personal interview may be requested before final decisions are made.

How can you increase your chances of acceptance? The first thing applicants should ensure is that they have a strong statement or essay. Do not make it generic. Always relate the topic to something personal. Weave in your career goals and aspirations and how continuing your education will help you reach them. Let your personality shine through, but answer the prompt. You also want to make sure that you get some stellar letters of recommendation because admission officers definitely use them as an acceptance gauge. Start building relationships with professors and authoritative figures now and give them up to six weeks to write you a letter. Make the process easier for them by supplying a list of which accomplishments you would like them to focus on.

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