Graduate School Timeline
Although each graduate school’s timeline will be the final word, use this suggested template for a general idea of how to proceed in your graduate school search.
Pre-Planning: Junior Year (18-24 months before graduate school)
Consider what profession you want to enter. Talk to your undergraduate professors and people already working in your chosen profession:
- Is graduate study recommended for your chosen profession?
- Will working for a year or two in the profession improve your chances of being accepted to the graduate school of your choice?
- What school or schools would they recommend?
- Consider if you need a breather from school after undergraduate commencement.
Summer between Junior and Senior Year (15 months before graduate school)
Browse and take notes from catalogs, web sites, and guides about graduate schools of interest:
- Are they in a geographical region where you are willing to live? Note that choosing a regional graduate program may affect where you are professionally marketable once you earn your graduate degree.
- Do you prefer a small institution (with its emphasis on faculty-student interaction) or a large institution (with its emphasis on increased resources)?
- Do you meet their entrance requirements? Also note each individual school’s deadlines for the application process.
- Devise a first draft of a personal statement (see ARC handout: “Drafting the Personal Statement”).
August-September (12 months before graduate school)
Based on application procedures of schools that interest you, develop individualized timelines for application and financial aid deadlines.
- Meet with professors, Career Advisors, and ARC about your personal statements.
- Arrange for letters of recommendation from professors and/or supervisors.
- Sign up for standardized tests (GRE, etc.) per application requirements.
- Schedule visits or telephone conversations with professors at graduate programs of greatest interest to you; plan, if possible, to talk with a student currently enrolled in or a recent graduate of the program.
- Request application materials.
October (10 months before graduate school)
- Take standardized tests.
- Make personal contract, either by telephone or, preferably, in person, with at least one faculty member teaching in each graduate program to which you intend to apply.
- Create a checklist of questions to ask, including the faculty member’s area of specialization, the track record of graduates from their program, and which professors you might expect to work most closely with in preparing for your professional goals.
Make sure your questions are answered (even if negatively). This should give you your “gut” preferences of institutions.
- Polish your personal statement, tailoring it to the requirements of each graduate school.
- Be sure to include evidence of what you learned during your personal contact.
- Order transcripts from all post-secondary institutions you have attended.
November (9 months before graduate school)
- Meet all financial aid and application deadlines (most are not due until December or
January, approximately seven to eight months before a new academic year begins) with time to spare. If deadlines are “rolling,” send all materials ASAP.
- Provide those who have agreed to write letters of recommendation for you with all materials they will need (official instructions from graduate schools, plus copies of your resume and personal statement) in order to write informed and persuasive letters advocating for your potential. Send a thank you (and, when you know it yourself, information about your final decision) to these good people afterwards.
Spring (less than 6 months before graduate school)
- Finalize financial aid realities; look for employment in the region of your chosen graduate program to supplement income as necessary.
- Explore – in person – housing and transportation opportunities at and around your chosen institution; if you plan to live off-campus in a geographical region unfamiliar to you, ask for advice about good places to live from faculty and students in the graduate program.