The road to graduate school is long – and can be complex and sometimes confusing. To help keep you on track, here’s a calendar of what grad school applicants should be doing, and when.

May – June

Maximize Your Chances: All 2019 grad school applicants should use the summer months to complete their school selection research and to begin preliminary work on their applications. If you’re hoping for funding, remember that the deadlines for fellowship and scholarship consideration often fall well before the application deadlines do. You will maximize your chances of  securing adequate support by starting your applications early.

School Selection:

  • Academic Qualifications. As you consider your school choices, make sure that one of the first items you look at in a program’s profile are the academic qualifications for admission. You will save yourself a lot of time and frustration by choosing the programs that best fit your academic profile.

  • Creating a Checklist. There are many graduate programs across the nation that overlap in regard to academic concentration and degree offerings. Create a checklist of the key criteria that you desire in a graduate program and use it to assess how good a fit each school you’re considering is for you. Some of the criteria that applicants usually consider are funding, publishing opportunities, alumni networks, career services, and school location.

  • Faculty. One of the most crucial issues that applicants should consider as they narrow their list of target schools is faculty specialties and availability. Your graduate education will focus largely on designing and conducting an original research project. Having a network of faculty and colleagues who can guide and mentor you through this process is a key to ensuring an enjoyable and productive grad school experience,

  • Campus Visits. Try to schedule a visit to each of the schools on your final target list. Try to arrange meetings with admissions staff, students, and – more importantly – with faculty members who might be prospective advisors. Also consider attending an admissions information session.

  • Deadline Considerations. Be observant of upcoming deadlines. Keep a detailed calendar of the various dates you should be considering, including fellowship application deadlines and regular application deadlines.

GRE:

  • Take the Test. If you haven’t already taken the GRE General Test, register for it now and begin reviewing test material. We have a free GRE test prep section complete with sample questions and answer explanations. Check the application deadlines for the programs you’re applying to and make sure that your test scores will be reported to the schools in time for those final deadlines.

  • Subject Tests. Some programs require GRE Subject Test scores. Check the requirements for the programs you’re applying to and make your test plans accordingly.

  • Not sure whether you need a GRE prep course? Call us at 1.800.809.0800 to discuss your situation. We’re here to help you!

Academics and Extracurriculars:

  • Alternative Transcripts. Summer is a good time to take additional courses at a local college or university if you need to build an alternative transcript to mitigate weaknesses in your official transcripts. Good performance in graduate-level courses could reassure admissions committees of your academic ability and of your commitment to graduate study. See if the course instructor would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you when the time comes.

  • Extracurricular activities can enhance your grad school applications. Think about the activities you participate in and the organizations you belong to. Will those activities and memberships support your case for graduate study? Would you benefit by getting involved in additional groups or activities? (Beware, however, of starting a number of new activities at the same time. Doing so could leave an impression that you joined the groups in question out of expediency rather than out of genuine interest.)

Strategic Positioning:

  • Consider Your Application Strategy. Before you begin work on your actual applications it is useful to create an application strategy. By outlining your strategy ahead of time, you’ll find it easier to keep focused and on track. A key part of devising your strategy is to identify the story themes and ‘wow’ factors that you want to incorporate into your applications. Remember that a confident and well-crafted application will take account of both your strengths and your weaknesses. Once you have those pinpointed, you can create a winning strategy that will mitigate your weakness and capitalize on your strengths and achievements.

  • Highlighting the ‘Fit’ Factor. Make sure your application strategy addresses the issue of your fit with each school and program you apply to. You will need to sell the admissions committees not only on your achievements but also on your confidence, your academic promise, and your ability to make significant contributions to the school and the program. Securing an admissions offer works both ways: candidates are looking for programs that will cater to their needs and schools are looking for impressive future alumni who will work to promote the school.

Applications:

“Most of your application will come down to the telling your story. It’s critical that you communicate to the admissions committee your motivation and readiness for graduate study. That’s why it’s important to provide strong letters of recommendation and essays that detail the unique skills and experience you can bring to a graduate program. These are the elements of an application that often have the biggest impact in admissions decisions.”

– Senior Admissions Consultant Heather MacNeill.

  • Order Your Transcripts. Request copies of your official transcripts for your own use. Make sure you remember to get one from every institution you’ve been enrolled at. You’ll use your copies of the transcripts to refresh your memory about your school performance and decide how to position yourself for grad school admission. Assess whether you need an alternative transcript. If so, you need to move fast to develop one, as summer is practically here!

  • Review Your Resume. Determine whether you should take the coming months to obtain additional work experience. You may want to consider taking on another project at work or joining a professional organization, as these can also help strengthen your credentials. By starting early, you have enough time to further build your professional profile if need be.

  • Start Drafting Your Personal Statement. Think about the issues or topics you might want to include in your statements of purpose or personal statements. Ask yourself how well each one would serve to promote your candidacy at your targeted schools. Oftentimes, you’ll want to use different personal statements for different schools or programs. After all, different programs seek different qualities in their graduate students. A well-crafted personal statement is often the factor that makes the difference between being accepted to a graduate program and being denied.

  • Start Thinking About Your Recommenders. Start thinking about who you would like to ask to write your recommendation letters. Take a moment to double-check your recommendation strategy. Identify recommenders who will be able to best articulate your strengths and potential. Once you have chosen your recommenders, be proactive and tell your recommenders which points they need to make to give your applications your best chances of admissions success.

Our Graduate School Admissions Timeline page will be updated on July 1.

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