Applying to graduate school is an involved process. With enough time, it can be relatively enjoyable. On an abbreviated schedule, applying to graduate school can be extremely stressful. It takes a minimum of two months, and four to six months is better. Starting early is always beneficial – schools will simply keep your information filed until the next review session.

Parts of a Graduate Application

Graduate applications usually consist of a few forms, transcripts, GRE scores, a personal statement, a writing sample, and recommendation letters. This section describes each portion of the application and recommends strategies for creating a strong application. Start working on your pieces early and make sure your last name appears in all electronic file names and in a header or footer, even if the document is one page.


Transcripts will be the easiest portion of the application - simply order them from your previous school or schools. However, request them early. It sometimes takes a few weeks for them to be sent out (most schools do offer a rush service for an extra fee), and follow up with the school to which you are applying to ensure that they arrived.

Curriculum Vitae

Composing a curriculum vita (CV) is another step in preparing for doctoral work. The CV is the academic version of a resume. UW-Stout's Career Services web site provides some useful resources for preparing a CV.

Presenting results of your research at conferences is an important way to build your CV, to network with other graduate students and faculty, and to learn about interesting research occurring in our field. The MSTPC program is able to fund student travel to conferences. Students must be traveling to present an accepted paper, poster, or talk at a conference that is relevant to their MSTPC program. The program director must approve all travel that is to be reimbursed by the program before the travel takes place. Students must follow UW-Stout's travel policies, and the MSTPC program assistant will assist you in complying with these policies and submitting the proper paperwork. If you have been accepted to present at a conference, contact the program director immediately.

Letters of Reference 

Doctoral programs generally ask for letters of reference from faculty and others who know you and know your work. Be prepared to have three letters of reference sent to each doctoral program to which you’ve applied. Try to have one letter come from your thesis or field project adviser, one letter from your program adviser or another faculty member who has worked with you in class. A letter can also come from a workplace supervisor, especially if that work is relevant to the technical and professional communication discipline.


The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a required test for admission into most doctoral programs. Information about the GRE can be found here.