Application Timeline for Graduate School
As early as you think graduate study may be an option for you,
begin discussing it with your academic and pre-graduate advisors.
They can help you get a good sense of what graduate study entails,
the types of graduate programs and degrees that are available, the
kind of coursework you should complete as an undergraduate, and the
level of scholastic achievement you should aim for in order to be a
viable applicant. (Please remember that with every passing semester
it is mathematically harder to improve your grade point average.)
No later than the fall of your junior year, you
need to begin thinking about graduate study in a more systematic
manner. Think about the path you would like to take in graduate
school and what type of program would be good for you.
Additionally, ask questions of your faculty, advisors, friends,
classmates, and family, while also doing some basic research on
programs of interest to you.
Then in the spring of your junior year (or the
year before you graduate and/or apply to graduate school) get down
- Research programs/schools that interest you
- Talk with faculty members, the pre-graduate advisor, and
fellow students about these programs/schools
- Begin requesting information from schools
- Review the information you have received and decide to which
schools you would like to apply.
- Begin writing drafts of your Statement of Purpose. Some
programs might ask specific questions and have specific formatting
guidelines so be sure to check the applications carefully. It is
best to create a statement of purpose that can easily be amended
for different applications.
- Register and prepare for any admission tests you will need (
GRE, GMAT, etc.).
- Take practice tests.
- Research financial assistance,
including national scholarships, grants, fellowships,
assistantships, etc., and determine what type of financial aid,
if any, you will need.
- Start saving money for the applications themselves. Schools may
ask anywhere from $35 to $90 in application fees
- Visit the campuses of the programs you are strongly
- Meet with faculty members to discuss the programs you would
like to apply to and start asking for letters of recommendation.
- Have faculty members, advisors, fellow students, and anyone
whose opinion you trust help you with your statement of purpose. If
you are required to submit other writing samples, a portfolio, or
an audition tape, make sure all portions of your applications are
- Develop a timeline and check-list
(PDF) for the applications you will be submitting. Many programs
have different deadlines for different portions of the application.
For instance, most programs strongly recommend you apply up to a
month in advance if you are interested in an assistantship or
fellowship. Also, financial aid deadlines can be different from
general application deadlines.
- Register for admission tests.
- Finalize the number of schools you will apply to and make sure
you have all necessary application materials.
- Take admission tests and request that your scores be sent to
the schools you have chosen.
- Double-check timelines for application packages for each
- Finish your statement of purpose and other materials required
- Request letters of recommendation AT LEAST ONE MONTH before
they are due.
- Request transcripts from the registrar for ALL undergraduate
work. If you have taken courses at another university, be sure
those are included. If possible, request that additional
transcripts be sent as soon as fall grades are submitted.
- Send in your applications. Most schools' deadlines range from
mid-November through early February. Again, sending in an
application three-four weeks before it is due will help you avoid
mishaps. If you are applying online, make sure to complete your
application before signing out/logging off. Whether you mail or
submit your application electronically you should follow up with
the admissions office to make sure your application was received.
It is a good idea to consider sending applications by certified
- Stay on top of the financial aid process. If you will be
applying for loans, start researching your options now.
- Follow up on your applications.
- When you start receiving your letters, prepare to make a
decision about which program you will choose. What factors are most
important to you? Do you have a back-up plan if you do not get
accepted to your top choice? Do you have another back-up plan in
case you do not get accepted at all?
- You may be asked to interview for assistantships or
scholarships. Try to plan your travel arrangements in advance in
case you need to visit more than one school.
- File income taxes. Make multiple copies of your return in case
you are asked to submit information for verification. Prepare to
fill out the FAFSA and any other financial aid forms.
- You may be asked to submit final financial aid
forms/applications. Keep copies of anything you submit; it will
help you to have the information readily available.
- Once you have made your final decision on where you will go to
graduate school, kindly notify other schools of your choice.
- Send thank-you notes to anyone who helped you in the
application process, especially those who wrote you letters of
recommendation, and let them know where you are heading.