Graduate School Weekend

For the last four years, prestigious graduate schools from around the world have come to NYU Abu Dhabi to answer questions, offer advice, and guide students through the graduate school decision-making process.

Recruitment specialists come to Abu Dhabi from schools like Yale School of Management, Oxford University, NYU Tisch, MIT, Princeton, and Columbia, all with similar advice for students considering applying to graduate school.

RVSP: Graduate School Weekend

1. It's more than the name.

It is easy to gravitate toward schools based on fame or published rankings, but a school can easily see through a surface-level selection. MIT, for example wants to see, "focused interest and strong understanding” of your intended field. When considering a program, look beyond the brand and investigate how your interests align. A spokesperson from MIT says, "It’s not just about going there because it’s MIT.”

2. It's not you versus admissions.

“I look after my students…I fight for your case," explains Aidan O’Halloran from the University of Oxford. Admissions committees are genuinely interested in building a cohort that reflects the priorities of the institution, spending up to five hours on a candidate application. They also want to help you. Schools understand how difficult it can be to finance graduate school and are ready and willing to talk about options. They will even put you in touch with current students from a specific industry, background, or interest, so you can gather information. Reach out and ask questions you cannot find answers to on their website.

3. Start with the end in mind.

Who do you want to become as a result of graduate school? What do you want to accomplish? Graduate school has an expiration date, at which point you must enter the world of work. Graduate school can help you reach your goals, but make sure the program you’re considering actually helps you get there. Don’t assume that X experience + Y degree = Z outcome. Ask the institution where other graduates have ended up.


Be passionate about a cause and want to do something about that [cause].

Gabriella Emszt, Central European University

4. The path to graduate school can be flexible.

Some degree programs have specific prerequisites but many programs welcome academic diversity. A spokesperson from Yale School of Management says they welcome students from all different academic majors and professional backgrounds. In fact, their most recent incoming scholars include students from backgrounds like law, government, classics, psychology, economics, and political science. You can learn a lot about who has been admitted to graduate schools in the past and what they have achieved using LinkedIn Education.

5. Be focused, but don't rush it.

Successful graduate students have a clear but flexible focus. You don’t have to know your dissertation topic right away, in fact, you probably shouldn’t. But you should be “passionate about a cause” and “want to do something about that [cause],” explains Central European University’s Gabriella Emszt. If you don’t yet have a focus, consider delaying graduate school until you find one. It's a huge investment by both you and the school you choose.

6. Grades aren't everything.

While your undergraduate grades matter, graduate school admissions committees consider a variety of data points. Tests are a common pain point, but the most neglected part of the application tends to be letters of recommendation. Ben Young from the University of Hong Kong recommends getting a letter of recommendation from someone who knows you well and can speak to your future success as a graduate student. These types of letters are the result of building meaningful relationships in the years before you apply.