Strategies for Applying to U.S. Graduate Schools

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Carefully plan the steps you must take to gain admittance to a top U.S. graduate school. This is a long process that requires you to obtain passing scores on the iBT TOEFL test, and the GRE or GMAT. You must start the process soon. We suggest following this sequence of steps as the best way to be successful.


1.   Study for TOEFL beginning in February or March to be ready for the test in June. Spend enough time practicing the skills you need for the more difficult parts of the test—the interactive parts, speaking and writing. The speaking section is especially difficult for Japanese who have had limited opportunities to converse regularly with a native English speaker.


2.   Spend the summer months studying for the GRE or GMAT test that your advanced program requires. While you can get a good score on the quantitative section, you need to practice for the verbal section and, especially, for the AWA writing task. The argument essay that is required involves a type of writing that you have not been exposed to. By preparing for the GRE/GMAT in summer and passing it by September, you can then move on to the process of applying to the graduate programs of your choice.


3.   Start the application process by preparing a clear resume following American academic standards. This will later be uploaded into your applications.


4.   Next, begin preparing at least two recommendations from supervisors or university professors. For those recommenders for Japanese applicants who do not speak English at a high level, you must get drafts in Japanese and have them translated into English. The English versions will then be uploaded onto your applications. Since different graduate programs might have different requirements for recommenders, you might need extra time to prepare these new recommendations.


5.   Then prepare the application essay or essays. Here you need an application essay coach. Most application instructions suggest that you show your essay draft to a native speaker who can advise you in correcting errors in grammar and vocabulary. PLA application essay coaches go far beyond this grammar/vocabulary check by carefully studying the requirements of the program you are applying to and further guide you in assuring that the information you provide is totally consistent with the program’s goals. Since instructions for the application essay differs from program to program, PLA suggests ways to adapt your application essay draft to meet the different requirements.


      Some programs offer "early decision" with deadlines in December or earlier. This timing for submitting applications—if you are ready—is much better because there are fewer applicants who can be ready for "early decision" deadlines, so they have a better chance of being accepted.


6.   The final step in the process involves filling out the details in the online applications. You need your application essay counselor to make sure that the information you want to upload into the application meets the requirements.



Let PLA be your coach by carefully guiding you through these steps. With our professional counselors having 20 years of experience, we can eliminate your worries and ease the tension that builds up as you work through this difficult process.


By using PLA through the entire application process that we explain above, you can be confident of having the continuity of a single counselor, a method that results in the best-prepared applications.


However, PLA is also capable of guiding you through any of the separate steps—preparing for the TOEFL/GRE/GMAT, composing your English resume, translating your recommendations into English, guiding you to write impressive application essays, and helping you complete the online applications.


Now, let's really get started!