If you’re considering applying to graduate school, you need to plan at least a year in advance. This means that if you plan to enroll in Fall 2019, you should already have a plan in action. If you’re starting your junior year and intend to apply for Fall 2020, now’s also a great time to look ahead so you know what to do as your penultimate year of undergrad wraps up.
Get an idea of the timeline you should follow (or catch-up on) to make sure you feel prepared — and not rushed — during your last year of undergraduate studies.
At this point, you should get prepared for the standardized tests you need to take before applying to graduate school. They may include the GRE, GMAT, MCAT or the LSAT, since these are some of the most common tests for various graduate programs. You can take these later in your senior year, but try to register in the summer, and consider taking a prep course.
You should also get an idea of which graduate schools you plan on applying to. Requesting brochures and other materials from the schools that interest you should help narrow down your choices. Learning about your financial aid options can also help you make a decision, so be sure to find out about scholarships, loans, and grants that will be available to you from each school.
If you haven’t yet done these things, check them off your list as soon as possible!
By the time your senior year of college starts, you should know where you will be applying to graduate school. At this time, you should make sure know how to apply to each school you are interested in (and what the deadline is for applying).
Application requirements may vary slightly from school to school, but generally you will need a statement of purpose, official transcripts, two to three letters of recommendation, a resume, and a completed application form in addition to any required test scores. Make a list of what each school requires to ensure you don’t forget anything as you start preparing to send in your apps.
You should also think about which professors you plan to ask for letters of recommendation. Make sure they know the deadline for the colleges where you are applying — since they need to have the letters sent in before then — as well as how they should send each letter, as again, this can vary from school to school.
If you have not yet taken the necessary standardized tests, make sure to take them now so the scores are ready by the time you start send out those applications.
Before school is out for winter break, you should request that your school’s registrar send out your transcripts. You should also make sure your scores for the GRE or any other tests you took will be reported to the right schools.
In addition, you should take advantage of the time off you will have after finals to write your admissions essay. Have friends, professors, family members, and anyone whose opinion you value look over the essay and make suggestions for improvement.
By early January, you should be ready to send in your applications since the deadline for applying to graduate school is often between January and March. (But some deadlines may be earlier — double-check!) Make sure you are prepared for any admissions interviews you need to pass if the schools you applied to require this step. You should also fill out the FAFSA at this time.
Now is a great time to try to relax after all the stress of applying to graduate school. You can start looking forward to seeing the acceptance letters roll in. Of course, you need to keep up your grades during your senior year of college, too!
In addition, as the weather warms up, you should start thinking about which school you will actually attend. If you haven’t already, you should schedule a tour of the campus for each graduate school you get accepted to. Once you know you like the campus, and you approve of the financial aid package you have been offered, you can confidently choose a graduate school.