It’s important to channel honesty and self-awareness in your graduate school application

As part of the Daniels graduate admissions team for more than five years, Luke Parrott, director of graduate admissions, has evaluated a broad spectrum of applications.

Although conventional wisdom—and so-called online experts—point to a pristine GPA and an image of perfection as the golden ticket to admission, he’s quick to dispel such presumptions. Just as valuable is an individual’s emotional intelligence, or EQ.

“We are not looking for candidates to fit a specific mold in order to meet our criteria for admissions,” Parrott said. “We’re looking to fill classrooms with diverse perspectives and backgrounds. To do that, we appreciate that each student has their own, unique journey.”

And since no student’s path to Daniels has been entirely free of obstacles, an application should openly and earnestly address both the high points and low points on their journey.

Luke Parrott

A comprehensive assessment

Each application Daniels receives goes through at least four evaluations:

  • Admissions officers weigh academic evidence through core transcript components, such as GPA. and look for a candidate’s thoughtful approach to DU’s test-optional position on the GMAT/GRE.
  • The team reviews an applicant’s professional history to assess whether it’s relevant to the program and the applicant’s career goals.
  • They evaluate essays, resumes and emails for content, professionalism, personality and honesty.
  • The team gains deeper, face-to-face insight into the individual behind the application through the interview.

In addition, many applications are subject to one or two further reviews. For example, a career services representative or the director of a specific program may be invited to weigh in on the candidate before the entire package is sent to Parrott for the final decision.

“We honestly take a holistic view of each application because the reality is that metrics never tell the whole story,” Parrott said. “We’re trying to discern the narrative of where the student has been, where they are and where they want to be.”

Address the bad with the good

As part of that foundational narrative, acknowledging obstacles in your application is an opportunity to examine how less-than-ideal experiences changed your life, Parrott said.

“Share why it happened in the past, what you learned from it and how you’re growing professionally today,” he said. “Owning your flaws and turning that into an opportunity to explain how you want to grow is also an indicator that you’re seeing grad school as more than gaining some quantitative acumen or getting a promotion at work.”

Notably, Parrott highly encourages applicants to be forthright in addressing subpar academic results (either overall or within a specific period), employment gaps on their resumes and specific incidents within an academic or criminal record.

Within the Daniels application, ideal venues to address such issues are the optional open-ended third essay or the interview.

“Use candor and be professional,” Parrott said, “but in no way sugarcoat things. Inauthenticity is easy to detect in the application process and could be a detriment.”

Ideally, you set the tone

In short, admission to Daniels is based on:

  • Evidence of academic capacity
  • Indicators of professional fit
  • EQ as reflected in a candidate’s likely contribution to the Daniels culture and fellow students’ success

Given the abundance of qualitative measures inherent in the admissions process, your ability to acknowledge and assess your personal journey’s twists and turns is essential.

“Disclosing these things shows a high level of emotional intelligence,” Parrott said. “These factors are part of a holistic application. They provide context, helping the graduation admissions team connect the dots of your journey. A strong application leaves nothing open to interpretation.”

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