So you've made the decision to apply to a masters degree program. Now what? It is crucial that you meet all deadlines when applying to graduate school, as an incomplete or late application could move you to the waiting list. Although applications to start the fall of the next academic year are typically due between November and January, it is a good idea to start your graduate school application process as early as possible. Getting your grad school application in early ensures that you will have the time to resubmit materials lost in the mail or supplementary materials that you might have forgot to submit.
All grad school applicants should be starting the application process at least a year before submitting their applications. If you are in your junior year of your undergraduate education, start now. Senior year is going to be filled with final projects and papers and you will want to plan as much as you can before the start of your senior year. In order to make sure that you get all of your materials in on time and that they are of the highest quality possible, be sure to follow the proceeding timeline.
Spring (May – June)
- Research graduate schools to see what masters degree programs are available.
- Take a GRE test prep class if you feel you may need extra help attaining a good score. Depending on the graduate program you are taking, you may need to take a prep course for the LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT.
- After you complete your test prep course, take a practice GRE test.
- Consider who you will ask for a recommendation. If you are still in college, or have recently graduated, the first people you should ask are your college professors. If you have been out of school for a while, ask your employers and co-workers. Their knowledge about your work habits will be especially helpful if you are applying to a program in the field you are working in.
- Create an outline for your statement of purpose. The statement of purpose is your chance to tell the admissions committee why you are a great candidate for the program and your personal reasons for wanting to apply to the program.
Summer (July – September)
- Contact the grad schools you think you may be interested in. Request brochures and other materials to familiarize yourself with them.
- Request information from schools you are interested in. Brochures and other materials detailing the requirements of each degree program, facilities and financial aid.
- Investigate financial aid options. Gather estimates on how much financial aid you will need to obtain. Learn more about FAFSA, as well as scholarship, fellowship and assistantships offered for your program.
- Take the GRE general test. Keep in mind that even if your school does not require that you take the GRE, some national fellowships and other forms of financial aid might require your GRE scores to apply.
- If applicable, register for the GRE subject test.
- Using your outline, write a first draft of your statement of purpose.
- Finalize your grad school choices and determine at least two professors from each school whose research reflects your own interests.
- Contact the people who you want to write your recommendations.
- Talk to your undergraduate professors, or professionals in your field to help you narrow down which degree program is best for your passions and career goals.
Fall (October – November)
- Request official transcripts from your undergraduate school.
- Send your resume, personal statement, transcripts and other supplemental materials to the people who will be writing your recommendations.
- Arrange for a campus visit to each school you are interested in. When you are there, talk to students and faculty to get a better idea of the environment.
- Have someone in your field review your personal statement. Revise it to fit the specific program you plan to apply to.
- Take the GRE subject test, if necessary.
- Check the due date for each application and record it on your calendar.
Winter (December – February)
- Complete your applications. For a more cleaner and neater application, scan the form into your computer and fill it out in a word processor.
- Re-read all of your application forms and statement of purpose.
- Mail out your applications
- Verify that your recommendations and other supplemental materials such as transcripts, have been sent.
- Most schools send a receipt to let students know they received their application. If you are missing any receipts, notify the school as soon as possible to ensure your application is completed before the deadline.
- Prepare for and attend admissions interviews. Make a list of common questions asked at a graduate school interview in addition to a list of questions that you want to ask each school.
- Fill out your FAFSA and start applying to other financial aid options, such as scholarships, fellowships and grants.
- Relax! You’ve worked your hardest to turn in the best graduate school applications. Treat yourself, you deserve it!
Spring (March – April)
- By April 1, you should have received notification from all graduate schools on the status of your application. Be prepared for at least one rejection, as masters degree programs are competitive.
- If possible, visit the schools where you were accepted one last time to help you make your decision.
- Discuss your outcomes with a faculty member, graduate admissions counselor or professional.
- By April 15, you must accept or decline all offers.
- Try and negotiate a better financial aid package or pursue other financial aid opportunities if you decide you need more funding.
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