Build a Better Application: Applying to Graduate School

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Making the decision to go to graduate school can be one of the most important decisions in your adult life. Like other major life decisions, it takes time, money and commitment. To start, ask yourself: “Why should I go to graduate school?” and “Do I need to go to graduate school?” Then follow up with a few additional questions: “Do I need an advanced credential to be promoted in my profession?”, or “I’m changing careers; do I need to be licensed?” and “Do I need to go back to school to do in-depth research in the field I’m passionate about?” These questions will lead you to the answer of why you should go to graduate school. From there, your research and expedition into the graduate program that is the right fit for you will begin. However, to get into the right graduate program, you must have a strong application.

Once you’ve established the “Why ” your next step is to find out the “What,” Find out what type of degree you need for what you want in life. To do that, you’ll need to do research, research, and more research. Do you have to pursue a Ph.D. program, a professional Master’s degree such as a Master of Social Work degree, an M.S. in Engineering Management, or an advanced graduate certificate? The list of different types of graduate degrees is endless. If you aren’t sure of what degree type and program you need, ask someone! Speak with a professor/academic adviser, your college Career Center, a friend or even a family member. Attend a graduate school fair, and speak with representatives who visit your campus (like us!). Online graduate guides are also helpful.

Once you narrow down what degree you should pursue, next, you need to find “Where” Where should you go to get the advanced degree you want? You’ll need to do more research to find institutions offering the program you’ve decided on. Get to know the institutions that offer the degree program. Go through their website, their department website, and fill out inquiry forms. Book appointments with admissions officers and discuss the program of interest. Read about the course offerings thoroughly and make note of the application deadlines, so you know when the best time is for you to enroll. If possible, call and schedule a visit to the campus and meet with a faculty member to discuss the program (especially if you’re going to pursue a doctoral program), and speak to current students about the program. Their perspective is the best way to find out if it will be a fit for you.

After your research helps you decide which degree programs and institutions are best for you, as well as when you need to apply, you’ll need to begin building your application. So how do you begin the application process? Think about your application as a sum of its parts, since admissions committees read applications holistically.

1. Review the application requirements and instructions. Be sure you understand what is required and when it is due. If you aren’t sure, contact the admissions office and ask. That’s what they’re there for.
2. Start on your Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose first. This will help you articulate what your goals are, and what you’ll gain from the program. You can keep going back to revise it. Be sure to answer all the questions and prompts, and ask someone to give you feedback. Proof-read twice!
3. You’ll need letters of recommendation. Ask someone (usually a professor) who knows you well and will write a positive letter. Meet with them to discuss why you are applying and what you’d like them to address in their letter. You may even share your personal statement with them.
4. Take the required standardized test. Most programs require them; find out which one you have to take. Make note of when the test date is in relation to the due date of your application. Give yourself enough time to study.
5. Find out what funding is available for the program you’re applying to. Is there any additional paperwork you need to fill out? Are there scholarships, assistantships or grants you’re eligible for? Contact the admission office to ask. Always ask for more financial/scholarship aid if you need it, in addition to any application fee waivers.
6. Submit your application on time!

Going through these steps and asking yourself the Why, What, Where, When, Who and How, will hopefully help you get into the graduate program you want and need to get to the next stage in your life’s journey. We hope to take part in your journey to fulfilling your academic and professional goals by inviting you to explore the graduate programs offered at Tufts University.

Roxana Woudstra

ROXANA WOUDSTRA, A’04, AG’14 | Director of Graduate Admissions
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and School of Engineering
Tufts University | Bendetson Hall
T: 617.627.2812 | F: 617.627.4079
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Tips To My Sophomore Self

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Career Story & Advice from a Northeastern alum, Taylor ‘16

Hi there! My name is Taylor and I graduated from Northeastern in May 2016 with a B.S. in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and Marketing, and a minor in International Affairs. I had the opportunity to complete three different co-ops while at Northeastern to gain real-world experience. My third and final co-op was a Buying Co-op at TJX, where I accepted a full time position post-graduation. During my co-op I was exposed to the world of Merchandising at a Fortune 100 Retail Company where I found a passion for the Buying career path.

Currently, I am now a Senior Allocation Analyst in HomeGoods within the Kid’s department. The Kid’s department is a really fun and dynamic area of our business. We sell everything from Toys and Books, to Bottles and Bibs, to Furniture and Bedding! As an Allocation Analyst, I allocate merchandise for my department to our 600+ stores based on a variety of factors, including trend, performance, geography, demographics, and more.

When I started at TJX, I was placed in the Merchandising Development Program (MDP), which is the development program and career path for those, like myself, who would ultimately would like to become a Buyer for the organization, sourcing merchandise for our stores from around the world. My TJX co-op experience played a huge role in shaping my career goals, and it introduced me to the merchandising function for the first time ever.


Looking back to sophomore year at Northeastern University, here are a few tips that I would give my sophomore self:

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Put yourself out of your comfort zone. Before my TJX co-op, I thought I wanted to be in the finance industry. However, after my first co-op at a financial services firm, I wasn’t 100% sold. After discussing different options with my co-op advisor, she suggested the TJX Merchandising Development Program. I wasn’t sure at first – merchandising and finance are 2 very different functions. But one of the greatest advantages of the co-op program is being able to try a variety of different career paths. Fast forward 6 months – I loved my buying experience and I decided to add a marketing concentration to compliment that!

  1. Build and maintain your professional network.

The opportunity that we have as co-ops to build a network before graduation is something very special. By building professional relationships during your co-op rotations, you set yourself up for long-term success and career opportunities. At TJX, relationships are key. When I started in my full-time role, I made sure to grab coffee and catch up with some members of my previous co-op team. While we don’t work together day-to-day anymore, they have been able to give me some great personal and professional development advice, and I know I can always go to them with any questions I may have in pursuing my career goal of becoming a Buyer!

  1. Ask for feedback.

Whether you are accepting your first-ever co-op or you are a seasoned executive, there are many opportunities for professional growth and development. One of the easiest ways to progress is to simply ask for feedback! Managers will see this as you taking initiative in your own development. As a part of the Merchandising Development Program at TJX, you have the opportunity to progress through a series of more challenging roles, and are given the tools and knowledge to set you up for success. By asking for feedback, you demonstrate your willingness to learn, excel, and develop in each role you are given.

By getting out of my comfort zone, I was able to find an industry and company that I am truly passionate about! I now have a strong professional network which I can use to ask questions, solicit feedback, and grow and develop through the Merchandising career path at TJX!


Each year TJX hosts 100+ Northeastern students on co-op across many areas of our business including Merchandising, Finance, Information Technology, Marketing, Logistics, Human Resources, and more!

Learn more about our upcoming recruitment events on campus from the career service center or your co-op advisor!


The TJX Companies, Inc. is the leading off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions in the U.S. and worldwide, ranking No. 87 in the 2017 Fortune 500 listings, with over $33 billion in revenues in 2016, more than 3,800 stores in 9 countries, 3 e-commerce sites, and approximately 235,000 Associates. We operate T.J. Maxx and Marshalls (combined, Marmaxx), HomeGoods and Sierra Trading Post, as well as and, in the United States; Winners, HomeSense, and Marshalls (combined, TJX Canada) in Canada; and T.K. Maxx in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Poland, Austria, the Netherlands, and Australia, as well as HomeSense and in the U.K. (combined, TJX International).



Starting a new role? Stand out with these four tips!

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Starting a new co-op or full-time job can be a challenge.  As the new kid on the block, you not only have to learn how to do the job, but also how to fit in with the company and make a strong impression. However, in most organizations, just being good at your job is not enough to get you noticed.  If you want to turn your coop into a full time offer or get on your boss’s radar for a promotion, it is important to find effective ways to increase your visibility.  You want your colleagues and manager to see you as a leader who adds value to the team and the company.  As a manager, I have hired several interns into permanent positions.  What differentiated them from the competition to win a coveted spot on our team?

Here are four ways you can make yourself stand out:

1. Go beyond your job description

View your job description as the minimum expectation and don’t ever be heard saying, “That’s not my job!”  Spend your first few weeks observing others, asking questions and figuring out ways you can add value to your team.  If you see something that needs to be done-take the initiative, bring it to your boss’ attention and offer your help.  If you find a way to do something more efficiently, suggest it with a concrete plan.  Step out of your comfort zone to learn a new skill or take on a project that no one else wants to do.  Possess a Yes-I-can attitude. If you show a willingness to learn or try something that would be beneficial to the company-you will definitely be positioning yourself for success.

2. Manage your time well

If you want to stand out, it is critical that you be regarded as someone who gets things done and done well.  Missing deadlines, or handing in a less-than-stellar project because you didn’t give yourself enough time to do it right is unacceptable.  The ability to multi-task, i.e. managing competing projects simultaneously, is expected of most employees, and is critical for anyone who aspires to a leadership role. It is important to prioritize your time when it comes to completing projects in order to get them done on time.  If you are unsure of which tasks to complete first, have a conversation with your supervisor to clarify expectations, and avoid potential problems in the future.

3. Speak up in meetings

The way you present yourself in meetings can have a big impact on your career. If you don’t let yourself be heard and never offer an opinion or comment, you may be giving off the impression that you are not invested.  Even if you are more introverted and prefer to think things through before you speak, find ways to participate.  When you do speak up, say your points succinctly and clearly.  A great way to figure out how to become an effective speaker is by watching those who do it well.  Meetings are where a lot of business gets done, and contributing your ideas publicly allows your boss and your peers to see you as a leader.

4. Ask for feedback and use it to improve

Getting feedback and constructive criticism from your peers and supervisor is one of the best ways to gauge your performance.  If your manager offers unsolicited feedback about a perceived problem or mistake, don’t be defensive.  Instead, take ownership and accountability and devise a strategy to address the problem.  If your manager doesn’t volunteer performance feedback –ask for it-appropriately.  You could request a regular one-to-one meeting to discuss problems, status updates and check-in about how you are doing.  When you are seeking feedback, don’t ask, “How am I doing?”  It’s too general and might not elicit specific, concrete suggestions.  Instead, ask about the one-thing.  For example, “What is one thing I could do to improve the way I…?  If someone takes the time and effort to give you feedback make sure you demonstrate how you are using it to improve your performance.

Diane Ciarletta is the Director of the Career Development Team.  She has been a Career Counselor for over 25 years and has hired and supervised many interns and professional staff.