Timeline for Applying to Graduate School

Below is a suggested timeline for applying to graduate schools — from starting your research all the way through acceptance. 

Junior Year 

Fall and Spring

  • Scan the landscape. Use multiple sources to research programs of interest.
  • Ask for faculty insight. Consult with faculty regarding your research interests and programs you might like to pursue.
  • Review the application process. Scan application forms, curriculum catalogs and financial aid information to become familiar with requirements, procedures and programs.
  • Track deadlines. Note deadlines now for future planning.
  • Prep for tests. Register and prepare for appropriate graduate admissions tests.
  • Register with national application services, if appropriate. Some programs may require this.


  • Take the required graduate admissions test. Be aware of deadlines and minimum time needed for scoring to ensure that you meet school deadlines.
  • Collect forms. Obtain application forms and financial aid applications so you can begin to prepare them in the early fall. If applying online, print the application form first to make notes and ensure you have complete information available for when you are ready to submit the application online.
  • Investigate target schools. Visit or speak with admissions staff, current students and faculty at programs of interest. Be sure to investigate faculty research interests.
  • Draft application essays. Begin drafting them now so you have time to get feedback from Career Services and your academic adviser(s) before applying.
  • Conduct more detailed research. Find out about financial aid, scholarships, fellowships and teaching or research assistantships.

Senior Year


  • Assess your rec letters. Obtain additional letters of recommendation as needed.
  • Think about the bottom line. For financial aid, check with each school for application requirements and forms.
  • Mail completed application materials
    • Financial aid applications: Do not forget these.
    • Admissions test reports: You must request that score reports be sent to your schools of choice.
    • Transcripts: Official transcripts must be sent through the registrar’s office. However, you may request copies and mail them as a courtesy with your application.
    • Letters of recommendation: Submit requests to faculty at least a month in advance of application deadlines.
    • Application essays/personal statement: Schedule a critique with a career adviser.
    • Portfolios, resumes, auditions, or other materials: Send as requested.


  • Track admissions decisions. Follow up to check on the status of your application.
  • Visit institutions of interest. Evaluate your options and interview if necessary or desired.
  • Choose among schools. Be prepared to consider multiple offers.
  • Share your decision. Once accepted to a program of your choice, notify other institutions of your decision.
  • Send thank-you notes. Include those who wrote recommendation letters, and inform them of your plans.