Resources › For Students and Parents How Graduate Admissions Committees Evaluate Applications Share Flipboard Email Print Steve Shepard / Getty Images For Students and Parents Graduate School Admissions Essays Choosing a Graduate Program Tips & Advice Recommendation Letters Medical School Admissions Homework Help Private School Test Prep College Admissions College Life Business School Law School Distance Learning View More By Tara Kuther, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology Ph.D., Developmental Psychology, Fordham University M.A., Developmental Psychology, Fordham University Tara Kuther, Ph.D., is a professor at Western Connecticut State University. She specializes in professional development for undergraduate and graduate students. our editorial process Tara Kuther, Ph.D. Updated January 08, 2018 Graduate programs receive dozens or even hundreds of applications and many are from students with stellar qualifications. Can admissions committees and departments really draw distinctions among hundreds of applicants? A competitive program that receives a large number of applications, such as a doctoral program in clinical psychology, may receive up to 500 applications. Admissions committees for competitive graduate programs break the review process into several steps. First Step: Screening Does the applicant meet the minimum requirements? Standardized test scores? GPA? Relevant experience? Is the application complete, including admissions essays and recommendation letters? The purpose of this initial review is to ruthlessly weed out applicants. Second Step: First Pass Graduate programs vary, but many competitive programs send batches of applications to faculty for an initial review. Each faculty member may review a set of applications and identify those with promise. Third Step: Batch Review In the next step batches of applications are sent to two to three faculty. At this stage, applications are evaluated with regard to motivation, experience, documentation (essays, letters), and overall promise. Depending on the size of the program and applicant pool the resulting set of applicants is reviewed by a larger set of faculty, or interviewed, or accepted (some programs do not conduct interviews). Fourth Step: Interview Interviews may be conducted by phone or in-person. Applicants are evaluated with regard to their academic promise, thinking and problem-solving skills, and social competence. Both faculty and graduate students evaluate applicants. Final Step: Post Interview and Decision Faculty meet, gather evaluations, and make admissions decisions. The specific process varies depending on the size of the program and number of applicants. What's the takeaway message? Make sure that your application is complete. If you're missing a recommendation letter, essay, or transcript, your application will not make it through the initial screening.