The Idioms of Graduate School Applications

An idiom or idiomatic expression is an informal phrase that means something other than its literal meaning. For example, a common American English idiom is to break a leg. If someone tells you this, they are not literally wishing for you to break your leg, but instead they are wishing you good luck! Learning another language is difficult, and idioms make it especially complicated. But, you're here because you want to learn a thing or two about applying to graduate school as an international graduate student, right? So, let me see if I can kill two birds with one stone, meaning to accomplish two things at the same time, and help you with your American English skills while giving some guidance for your U.S. graduate school application at the same time.

Give your process the due diligence it deserves, because graduate school is a huge chapter in your life and the application is the first important page in it.

Step 1: Decide What Your Cup of Tea Is 

Your cup of tea is your ideal scenario. For example, my cup of tea is sitting on a beach in the summer with a good book. Sitting inside during a thunderstorm is not my cup of tea. You should take time to envision what your graduate school cup of tea looks like. Beyond finding the degree program you're interested in, it's important to consider factors like university location and size. Go one step further and think about factors like public transportation, proximity to other cities or regions, the job and internship market for your field, and what the housing options may be. Use all these factors to find the university that is the best fit for you. 

Step 2: Pick The Brains of Your Department 

It's helpful to know exactly what type of student your academic program is looking for. To pick someone's brain doesn't mean to take a scalpel to their head, but it means to ask questions for understanding and information. Your admissions counselor and the program manager are good resources to learn about the application and enrollment process, especially deadlines, but it's also a great idea to connect with professors. In the STEM field especially, you want to make sure that your research interests align closely with the research and projects happening in the department. All of this can provide useful insight to prepare a strong application.

Step 3: Get Your Ducks in a Row

This is a great visual image, right? This phrase means that everything is neat, organized and thoughtful. First, allow yourself at least several months to gather your materials prior to the deadline. Picture each application material as a duck. Be sure that your application duck is accurate and filled in completely, and that your essay and résumé ducks are proofread and checked for spelling and grammatical errors. It's not a bad idea to have someone you trust look over your materials and application before you click submit. Putting your best foot forward (another great idiom!), which means to present the best version of yourself, is crucial during this process.

Step 4: Keep Your Chin Up and Sit Tight

After you submit your application, you don't need to literally sit in a chair with your chin toward the sky. These phrases both mean to be patient. At the graduate level, your application likely has to go through multiple reviews or it may be held for a committee review. Most universities, including Drexel, have a status page online where you may continue to check the status of your application. It's okay to reach out to the university with specific questions, but trust that your application is moving through the process and you will be notified immediately when a decision is made.

By now, hopefully you've picked up a new phrase and some pointers for your application. Give your process the due diligence it deserves, because graduate school is a huge chapter in your life and the application is the first important page in it. And remember, your perspective as an international student is welcomed and appreciated on our campuses!