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Applications in North Carolina

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1.5 hours

Applications in North Carolina

This guide describes best practices for university and program applications: transcripts, personal essays, references and more.

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Application requirements may vary by program and can change. If you have any questions about this process, reach out to a TeachNC application coach or educator preparation program staff for support. We’re here for you.


To apply to your educator preparation program (EPP), you will need to submit one or more applications. (Surprised? No, we didn’t think so.) Your application includes everything the admissions officers need to review your fit for their program.

Common sections include personal information, academic history, a personal statement and references (letters of recommendation).

University vs. Program Application

Most North Carolina educator preparation programs are housed by universities. Depending on the program and whether you’ll be an undergraduate or postgraduate student, you may have to complete two applications—one for the university and another for its education program.

Applications at a Glance

Undergraduate EPPs have slightly different application requirements than programs leading to a master’s degree or noncredit post-baccalaureate programs (licensure-only). While individual program requirements will vary, the following are typical application requirements based on the type of program.

  • Undergraduate EPPs

  • Master’s degree or post-baccalaureate programs

Many North Carolina educator preparation programs offer step-by-step checklists for their program application processes. You can start checking off steps and sign up for email or text reminders and helpful tips along the way.

Preparing to Submit Application Materials

Most university and program applications include the following parts:

  • Personal information.
  • Academic history & transcripts.
  • Test results.
  • Supplemental materials.

Your EPP will provide guidance on how you should fill out each section. You might upload documents in an application portal, email them or mail original documents.

We know you’re diligent, responsible and capable. But rockstar qualities aside, double-check which documents your program requires and their method of delivery. Make sure that you are not missing any information. Failing to fill out certain fields could jeopardize your acceptance to the program.

Personal Information

Most EPPs require similar materials for their applications, and all will ask you to enter your background information. This section commonly includes your name, address, email, phone number and social security number.

Even though you will submit copies of your transcripts, you might get general questions about your GPA and academic or professional history in this section too. Gather all of your documents before you begin an application.

Academic History & Transcripts

For most EPP applications, your transcripts will provide proof of your academic history. When requested, include your transcript as part of your application.

You may be able to upload unofficial transcripts for the initial application, but you will need to formally request your official transcripts before (or shortly after) you are admitted. Contact the Transcript Office (or equivalent) of the schools you attended, and follow their procedures to request your transcripts. Budget at least three to five days for processing. Some schools will send transcripts via mail; others may have electronic copies. You may have to pay a small fee to get copies of your transcripts. 

If you are applying to an undergraduate program at the same school you currently attend, you may not need to send physical copies of your transcripts—your school may already have access. When in doubt, check with the program.

Test Results

Required Tests for All Applicants

All candidates for educator licensure must take a core academic skills test in reading, writing and math. Your SAT or ACT scores may count, or you may need to sign up for the Praxis Core Academic Skills test. 

Keep in mind that the university application may have different score requirements for the SAT/ACT than your educator preparation program. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction sets minimum score requirements for teacher candidates. With this in mind, you may need to take the Praxis I Core Academic Skills test, even if you have SAT/ACT scores.

Required Tests for Graduate Applicants

In addition to passing scores on a core academic skills test, some graduate programs that award a master’s degree along with a teaching credential may require additional test scores as part of the application.

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Some master’s level programs require GRE scores as a measure of readiness for graduate level work.
  • Praxis II subject matter tests: While all teacher candidates will take the required subject matter tests for their subject, some master’s level programs require you to take this test during the application process.

You can review step-by-step checklists—including the tests they require—for many North Carolina EPPs on our Programs page.

Keep copies of all of your application materials and have extra score reports on hand, if possible. Now is a great time to flex your organizational muscles. You know you’ll need them as a teacher!

Supplemental Materials

All EPPs require additional application materials, though timing and submission processes vary. The most common supplemental materials for North Carolina EPPs include:

  • Essay responses or a personal statement.
  • Letters of recommendation or contact information for references.
  • Resumé.
  • Background check/fingerprinting.

Drafting Essay Responses

Your essay response—personal essay, statement of purpose, statement of intent, or some combination thereof—is your unique opportunity to tell admissions staff exactly why you are the perfect fit for their educator preparation program.

Before writing your essay, make sure you’re clear on why you want to be a professional educator. Here are some ideas jumpstart the brainstorming process:

  • Call a friend or family member. Explain to them why you’re applying to an educator preparation program, and get their feedback on your explanation.
  • Make a bulleted list of all the reasons you want to be a professional educator. 
  • More of an artist? Draw your feelings about the subject. No joke.

The goal here is to hone your thoughts and feelings about teaching. Once you’re clear on “why,” writing an essay becomes a straightforward task that you can spend time perfecting (rather than stressing over).

  1. Goals

    In your essay, you want to:

    • Address specific requirements for your program. Some programs give specific writing prompts for the essay response. If this is the case, make sure you cover everything in the prompt. Beware of the fantastic essay that doesn’t answer the question!
    • Consider your audience. Write for your readers. Admissions staff members are unique for each program. Ask yourself: What does this program pride itself on? This is your chance to directly connect with their mission statement and prove you know your stuff.
    • Mention relevant background. Describe how you became interested in the profession , tying in your academic record.
      Include personal experience. Select one or two examples from your life that underscore how your background and personal experience make you a good fit for this program and an asset to the teaching profession.

    Some applications break essay responses into individual parts or questions. When this is the case, remember to choose specific examples that directly relate to the topic at hand.

    Visit your educator preparation program’s website and social media profiles. You can get a good sense for what the program values (and what you might speak to in your essay) by doing a little recon.

  2. Structure

    Your personal essay is an opportunity to be creative—to a point. It’s vital to make an impression by demonstrating your relevant skills, experience and vision.

    Pay close attention to the word count or page limit for your personal response. (It’s never been a better time to make friends with an editor—or to ask colleagues or mentors for their feedback.)

    Suggested Outline

    Here’s our recommended outline for your personal essay. Just remember: You’re the expert on you! Take what works; revise what doesn’t.

    Pro tip: If you’re applying to more than one program, don’t submit the exact same essay. Tailor your approach, calling out what is unique about each program, whether it’s a specific class, teaching approach or location. You don’t need to rewrite the whole essay—just make changes that show you know their program!

    • Introduce yourself. (1 paragraph)
      • Hook. Grab the admissions officer’s attention with a strong statement that speaks to your interest in this specific program.
      • Connect. In one or two sentences, give an overview of what your essay response seeks to achieve as a whole. In other words, write a thesis that connects the next two sections up front.
    • Get personal. (2-3 paragraphs)
      • Background. Briefly summarize the parts of your educational background that relate directly to your ambitions for becoming a professional educator. What made you want to teach the grade levels and subject area you’ve chosen? (Hint: If there’s anything on your resume or transcript you’re not proud of, consider addressing it here to use it to your advantage.)
      • Anecdote. Tell your story. What made you want to become a teacher? What inspires you about the profession? How have events in your past—including any pre-teaching experience—inspired you to pursue this career?
    • Seal the deal. (1-2 paragraphs)
      • Validate. We could easily call this step “Connect again.” Revisit your thesis and make sure you’ve proved what you set out to. In other words: What about your background and personal anecdote make you a good fit for this particular educator preparation program?
      • Conclude. Reaffirm your passion for teaching the grade levels and subject area you’ve chosen.
  3. Phrases to Avoid

    When writing your essay, stay away from these sayings and clichés:

    • "I want to make a difference.”
      • Doesn’t everyone want to make a difference? Get more nitty-gritty than this catch-phrase. Consider how teachers uniquely provide a vital social service, and what about the profession resonates with your own mission.
    • “While this isn’t my first choice program…”
      • While honesty is usually the best policy, you don’t need to reveal to admissions staff that their program might not be your #1 choice. Instead, focus on the parts of the educator preparation program that are most compelling to you.
    • “I’ve always wanted to work in education.”
      • Prove it! Use your personal anecdote to show that you’re the right person to lead a classroom.
    • “I love working with children.”
      • While we’re sure that’s true, focus instead on the specific rewards (and challenges) of working with students of a certain age.

Sourcing Letters of Reference/Recommendation

When it’s time to submit references, also know as letters of recommendation, choose your recommenders wisely. Your references have the power to give your application a major boost. (You know how the best compliment is the one you overhear? This is like that, but staged, eloquent, and directly tied to your academic and professional ambitions.)

You will typically need two to three references from people can who can attest to your skill sets, strengths and fit for a career in education. Common types of recommenders include employers, supervisors, teachers and professors.

Some EPPs have specific guidelines about who you should choose to provide a reference. As always, follow any guidelines your program offers.  

  1. Timing

    Give your recommenders plenty of time to reflect on your accomplishments and to write their letters. Some programs recommend asking at least 30 days in advance.

    Don’t assume that someone will have the time or be willing to recommend you for an educator preparation program. Make your request far enough in advance to allow for any necessary course-corrections.

  2. Materials

    To make it easy on your recommender, provide them with as much of the following as you can:

    • An explanation of what you’re applying for and why you’d like them to recommend you. Consider including your personal essay, if you’ve completed that task.
    • The deadline for their letter. (Bake in one week’s wiggle room.)
    • A copy of your official or unofficial transcript.
    • Your resumé.
    • Instructions about how to submit your letters of recommendation. Some programs require recommenders to use a web submission form or program-specific email address, others want letters the old-school way—in the mail.

    If your recommender is a past instructor, include the grade you received in their course and a couple of samples of work you completed for them. This will remind them of your performance and fit.

  3. Follow up

    Make sure to get confirmation from your recommender once your letter is submitted.

    Once you’ve received confirmation of submission, give your recommender a big thank you in the form of an email, phone call or card. Recommenders have day jobs, and providing a reference is a favor they are doing for you (that’s how great you must be!). Not only is a thank you polite, but it will encourage your recommender to support you in the future.

    If you are accepted to your educator preparation program, let your recommender know!

Preparing for Your Interview

If your EPP application requires admissions interviews, it’s a great idea to prepare.

You should follow all the usual advice to dress for success and be sure to smile and make eye contact. (Need an interviewing 101 refresher? Check out these resources from The Muse.) For educator preparation programs, consider a few additional pieces of advice for a great interview:

  1. Practice talking about yourself.

    You will have the opportunity to articulate why you want to be a teacher—and why you’ll make a great one—in your admissions essay. Now is your chance to practice telling the story to your interviewers. Ask a friend or family member to listen to your answer, then aim to tell the story in about two minutes, give or take.

    You’ll also want to practice telling what you will bring to the program. What will make you a great colleague to your fellow classmates? What unique perspectives or teamwork skills do you bring?

  2. Get to know yourself on paper.

    Your interviewers may want to know more about your academic background or have questions about specific courses, changes in major or grades on your transcripts. Review your transcripts with a critical eye. What questions might your interviewers have? Practice answering them. As with your admissions essay, this is your chance to use potential negatives to your advantage, showing how you have grown from challenges.

  3. Prepare to give specific examples that show how you work.

    Interviewers often want to know how your life experiences demonstrate the qualities they’re looking for. They may want to know how you creatively tackle challenges, collaborate on projects or handle stress. You’ll want to do more than tell them you’re creative and a great collaborator. This is your chance to illustrate your qualities with short anecdotes. Think of examples from your school work, jobs you’ve had or other experiences. Come ready with a few great stories that exhibit how you work. 

    To set yourself apart, follow your interview by sending short thank you emails or a handwritten card to your interviewers. Let them know you value their time and are excited to get started in the program!

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