5 Things Not to do When Applying to an MS in Real Estate

Specialized real estate development masters degrees are increasingly popular both for students working in real estate development firms and for applicants from all kinds of allied professions—from architecture and banking to engineering and law.

To enhance your potential for being accepted into one of the best MS in Real Estate programs, we offer the following tips, based on our review of hundreds of applications.

1. Do not pass up an opportunity to learn more about the MS in Real Estate program before you apply.

There are two crucial reasons to attend an information session for any program of interest:

  • It will provide a first-hand opportunity to determine if the school and program are a good fit for you—something you just can’t get from a website alone.
  • It can give you a keen insight into the qualities, experiences and issues that resonate with the real estate masters program faculty and staff—the people likely to be among those reviewing your application.

2. Do not forget to read the application essay instructions.

On your application essay, please do be sure to read and respond to the essay prompt provided.  We know you may have a lot you want to convey, but not answering the question asked or not following specific instructions can send up significant red flags.

3. Please do not just tell us you have “a passion for real estate.”

Binge watching “House Hunters” does not qualify you for acceptance into an MS in Real Estate Development.  Experience in the real estate development industry does work in your favor.

In your application essay, give us the specifics of the development projects you’ve worked on— your role, the scope of those projects, your successes and challenges.  Be specific .

If you’re currently working in an allied field, tell us about the kind of work you’ve done, what it  has taught you about real estate development—and what you still need to learn.

And if you have limited real estate experience, please give us as much evidence as possible (and be truthful) that you have the analytical and quantitative skills needed to succeed in the degree  program—and in the development industry.

4. Do not forget to tell us why you want a real estate development degree.

Please do use your essay to tell us something about yourself, your personal qualities and your  academic background.  Your focus, however, should be on your professional experience,  (see Point 2) and how a real estate development masters degree will help further your career  objectives.

Be sure to share your reasons for selecting a particular university.  That really resonates with the people reviewing your application.

5. And finally, don’t forget to choose your recommenders carefully—and considerately.

Almost every professional graduate degree program will ask you to submit two or more letters of recommendation in support of your application. Be sure to request these from people who have known you in a professional capacity and can best speak to your skills sets, motivation, and work ethic.

Make sure your recommenders aren’t blindsided by the request—especially if it is coming directly from a university’s application system. Give them a heads up; ask if they’d be willing to write a letter in your behalf. Tell them about the degree you’re planning to pursue.

Don’t wait until the last minute. Be sure to give your recommenders at least four weeks to respond.  You may need to do a little gentle follow up if they haven’t. Once the recommendation is in, a short note of thanks is always a nice touch.


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Jackie Buchy

Since 2011, I have served as the assistant dean for graduate enrollment at George Mason University's School of Business. In my role, I work with prospective graduate students to identify and select the best graduate program to meet their career goals.

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