A good application package contains: a strong and empowering personal statement, transcripts from the university sealed and officially stamped, letters of recommendation that show how much of an intelligent and dedicated person you are, standardized test scores and last but not least…the application filled out correctly (you would be surprised how easy it is to mess that up when you are so focused on the “hard” parts). My tips for making sure your application stands out: show how well rounded you are, graduate school is a bit more dependent on innovation than undergrad. They don’t need to see that you can memorize a passage, they do need to see that you can create something worth memorizing and that you would bring prestige to the university as an alum. Make sure that your letters of recommendation are coming from people who are relevant and actually want the best for you and believe in you. Its hard to get a feel for an applicant from their paperwork and when you dilute that down with thousands of applications its very important that you stand out. Sometimes your favorite professor has just the right wording about the type of person you are to make the school want to see that for themselves so make sure you ask the right people and give them time to do it correctly. Standardized test scores, in my personal opinion unless test scores aren’t needed or you are some type of savant, there is no reason why you shouldn’t take a prep class for whatever exam you have to take. Yes it costs money and yes its a legitimate class that you have to do homework for. However sometimes a few points on your test is what separates you from going to either your top dream school or you safety net maybe school. Then when you think about the difference in salary you could be getting because of the difference in education you received well then that class pays for itself many times over. Finally your personal statement, it’s your chance to show the school who you are. Take it seriously and imagine that they would have to make the decision based purely off that essay. Read it, reread it, then have 3 other people read it, edit it and then have 3 different people read it. If you put together a good application then you will surely go where you deserve to be. Best of luck to you future scholars.