General Timetable and Hints for Application to Graduate School
How do I apply? A Timetable for the Application Process
You can never start too early is likely the best advice. But here is a suggested timetable for you to follow. I have geared the dates for a student coming directly out of undergraduate study who desires to start the fall semester after a spring semester graduation.
Junior Year (1.5 years prior to desired start date)--Spring semester
--Get started familiarizing yourself with potential graduate programs
1) Talk with faculty about what programs are appropriate
2) Use the Career Services office, this website, and the internet to learn about programs.
3) Review articles in journals and note schools/people of interest
--Contact departments/download information on programs from the Web.
--Plan test date and register for the GRE
--Study for the GRE exam over summer
Senior Year--September and October
--Compose a letter of inquiry and a statement of your career goals
--Request letters of recommendations and ask your writers to review your letter and statement
--Utilize the Career Services office to review your letter of inquiry and statement of goals. The Writing Center can also be very helpful here--the more comments the better in helping you to craft the very best letter possible
--Take the GRE or other standardized exams
--Visit your Career Services office to learn more about strategies for financing your graduate school experience. Consider applying for a a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship that will help get you started in the graduate program that you eventually join.
--Send out letters of inquiry to faculty members with whom you are interested in working. Respond to all letters that you receive in response to your inquiry. Send a follow-up letter if you do not receive a response from people with whom you are very interested in working. Faculty are very busy or may be on sabbatical or out of the country--don't necessarily read too much into a slow or no response. Be tactful in your second contact
Senior Year--November and December
--Request copies of transcripts be mailed
--Submit your applications early to maximize your competitiveness for financial aid/fellowships/assistantships.
--Send a thank you note to prospective advisors that reaffirms your enthusiasm to join their graduate program and alerts them that your application is on the way.
--Discuss potential fellowships that you might apply for with your prospective graduate advisors
Senior Year--January through March
--Contact potential advisors or programs about visiting and interviewing. Be sure to meet with other current graduate students to get their impressions.
--Be certain to send a thank you note to those that helped you on your interview
--Complete the GAPSAF form available at your university's Career Services or Financial Aid office or via the schools to which you are applying.
Senior Year--April and May
--If you are accepted, rejoice! Discuss options with your undergraduate advisors/professors to determine which option is best.
--Once you have made your final selection, inform all of the schools to which you have applied. For schools that you have not yet heard from a letter will suffice. A personal phone call is appropriate to the individuals with whom you have been accepted to work but opt to go elsewhere.
--Contact the professor with whom you decide to work and ask what you might do to prepare for the fall.
--Prepare a bibliography on topics of interest so that you can hit the ground running and know the literature when you arrive in graduate school.
--If you are not accepted, contact the people with whom you have corresponded and obtain feedback on your application and assess what you can do to increase your competitiveness for the next round of applications. See the next category below for general hints.