Timeline for Applying to Graduate School
Balance your senior year and the graduate school application process.
Kathryn Knight Randolph
December 08, 2014
Senior Year of college – time to kick back, let loose and coast to graduation. Unless you plan to go to graduate school after college. In that case, you have quite a bit of work to do.
Most of the grunt work in applying to graduate school occurs during the fall semester, but you should expect to be working on your graduate school applications right along with your senior thesis. It will take a lot of time, but by working within an application timeline, you can ease the burden and stress of applying to grad school and finishing your senior year.
Get started now with this advice from collegecures.com.
In addition to starting the school year strong, you need to give a lot of thought as to what you plan to study after graduation and where. Once you’ve compiled a list of fields and potential schools, you need to research what exactly is required for your application into each particular field or school. For instance, do you need to take the GRE or the GMAT? Do you have ambitions to pursue a Master’s or a Ph.D.?
It’s also time to start prepping for those graduate school exams once you’ve decided what to pursue. Like the time you studied for the SAT and ACT, each graduate school exam can be prepared for with test prep books and practice exams that can be found online or in your campus bookstore.
Meet with professionals in the field you’re interested in or arrange for a job shadow sometime over fall break. At this point, you not only need to be establishing relationships for the purpose of letters of recommendation but also to verify that this is the path you want to take after graduation. Graduate school isn’t as experimental as the first few years of college. You need to be firm on your academic and career aspirations.
Secondly, you should also be meeting with your professors and career center personnel to prep for applications. Again, these are individuals who can provide you with letters of recommendation but they can also deliver keen insights into the graduate school application process. After all, they’ve helped countless students do the same year after year.
Devote the first one or two weeks in October to taking your graduate school exams. If possible, schedule them during your fall break or on the weekend so you don’t have to worry about missing class or balancing grad school exam time with writing a paper. Taking your tests at this point in the semester also enables you to submit your complete graduate school application sooner.
Most graduate school deadlines fall from October 31 to November 30, according to collegecures.com. Take the last few weeks of October and the first few weeks of November to compile and finalize your graduate school applications. In most cases, you’ll need to provide an application, transcript, letters of recommendation, resume and examples of your work. Your test scores can be sent directly from the test administrators, but you’ll need to confirm with each school that they received them before the application deadline.
Collegecures.com states that many schools allow applicants to make any changes to their application or submit components that they may have forgotten at this time. Again, it doesn’t hurt to touch base with the admissions offices at each school you’re applying to in order to confirm that they received your entire application.
January – March
Just when you think you can relax and forget about applications for a while, it’s time to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This is the same application you have filled out each year as an undergraduate student, and grad students are no different. Filling out this form is your way of applying for financial aid.
Though there are no federal government grants for graduate students, filling out the FAFSA does make graduate school students eligible for low-interest student loans. Completing your FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1 enables you to make a more informed decision on where you will attend grad school because you’ll hear sooner about financial aid.
March – June
At this point, you’ll begin hearing back from graduate schools regarding whether or not you’ve been accepted. With that, you’ll have the big picture – where you’ve been accepted, how much in scholarship dollars you can count on as well as how much you’ll need to borrow to make your graduate school dreams a reality.
Now, all you need to do is make a decision. Once that’s complete, you can begin to kick back, toast to your friends and future and begin cruising to graduation.