Graduate School Applications: What Do They Include?

While every program will have specific requirements, there are some common elements to grad school applications. When planning to apply to grad school, prepare to meet the following requirements for most programs:


You’ll need to send in your transcript from DU (and any other institution you’ve attended in the past) when you apply to grad school. Make sure to get your requests in to the Registrar’s office early so that your applications will be submitted and complete by the deadline.

Standardized Tests

A person behind a laptop writing on a tablet.Many grad programs require a standardized test, such as the GRE or GMAT, as part of the application package. Research ahead of time which test you may be required to take, if any, and begin studying early. Resources to help prepare for standardized tests include study guides, practice exams, and preparation courses, as well as information from the testing companies themselves:

Resume or CV

Your resume or CV (depending on your field) is the key document to highlight your academic achievements and relevant experience going into your program. Be attentive to whether programs ask for a professional resume or a CV.
A resume should be a short, effective summary of your relevant experience, usually no more than one page long. A CV, on the other hand, should be as long as necessary to include relevant information pertaining to your academic career, such as research projects, conference presentations, publications, and fellowships and grants you have been awarded.
If you are creating a CV using your undergraduate experience, make sure to have a mentor or advisor in your field review the CV to make sure it meets the standards for your specific discipline.

Statement of Purpose

A common element of the graduate school application is the statement of purpose or personal statement. For some programs, there might be a series of essay questions instead.
This document should inform the admissions committee about who you are, what has influenced your academic or career path so far, your professional or research interests, and how you plan to utilize that specific program to reach your future goals. When writing the statement, it’s crucial to plan ahead and start early, so that you can get feedback. These resources can help:
  1. The DU Writing Center
  2. Career and Professional Development: Schedule an appointment with us by visiting Pioneer Careers.
  3. Additional tips and samples are available at

Letters of Recommendation & References

It is common for a program to request 3-4 letters of recommendation or references from past professors or supervisors. When reaching out to references, be sure to communicate as early as possible the deadlines, prompts, and what you would like them to focus on. Include your resume with your request as a helpful reminder of your achievements, and follow up with a formal thank you, as well as with an email letting them know your final decision of where to attend.