Graduate School Preparation Timeline

You should begin the application process at least one year before you plan to start graduate/professional school. Deadlines for specific programs vary greatly, so be sure to research them in advance.

Here’s a preparation timeline you can follow to get the right things done at the right times—and to best prepare yourself for eventual success.

*Note: All times indicated here are approximate.

Spring (junior year, or 15 to 18 months prior to enrollment)

  • Reflect on personal and professional goals to determine if graduate school is right for you.
  • Discuss your plans and options with trusted mentors, advisors, family, alumni, etc.
  • Identify key considerations you will be looking for in a graduate program (e.g., location, cost, program, faculty, ranking, financial aid, etc.).
  • Begin researching and evaluating programs.
  • Identify and build relationships with potential letter of recommendation writers (faculty, instructors, advisors, supervisors, etc.).

Summer (12 to 15 months prior to enrollment)

  • Contact admissions officers, faculty, and students/alumni for your program(s) of interest to get more information, determine fit, and build relationships.
  • Get organized! Learn about the admissions criteria and timelines of your applications.
  • Begin narrowing down your list of program options, ultimately selecting two to five that you’ll apply to.
  • Study and register for entrance exams, if necessary.

Fall (senior year, or 10 to 12 months prior to enrollment)

  • Take the required entrance exams.
  • Order official transcripts from One Stop.
  • Gather application materials and feedback on your personal statement and résumé/CV.
  • Ask for letters of recommendation at least four weeks in advance.
  • Learn about funding/financial aid opportunities.
  • Submit your application and supporting materials by the deadline(s).

Winter/Spring (senior year, or 6 to 10 months prior to enrollment)

  • Send thank-you notes to your recommenders.
  • Prepare for and complete interviews, if necessary.
  • Patiently await admissions decisions.
  • Contact schools about the possibility of visiting.
  • Consider multiple options and make a decision!
The CLA Career Readiness Guide talks about graduate school and a host of other career-related topics in depth. Access it online, or pick up a copy in CLA Career Services or in one of the CLA Academic Advising offices.