grad school application timeline

Posted : April 29, 2014
Last Updated : April 6, 2017

grad school application timeline

If you have made the decision to attend graduate school, you should start the application process at least one year in advance. Throughout that year, you will want to stay organized by utilizing a calendar to record important dates and deadlines. Here is a sample schedule to follow if you want to enter graduate school during fall semester.


  • Research potential schools and request information from schools that interest you. Consider visiting the schools that appeal to you the most.
  • Take a practice test of the GRE, MCAT, GMAT, LSAT, etc. If you are unhappy with your score, consider taking a test preparation course. Register to take the actual test after completion of the prep course.
  • Begin drafting a statement of purpose/personal statement.
  • Consider which faculty members to ask for letters of recommendation.
  • Make sure your undergraduate transcript is accurate and complete.
  • Look into fellowships, assistantships, and other sources of graduate financial aid.


  • Meet with faculty mentors to discuss graduate programs and your personal statement. You may ask for letters of recommendation at this time.
  • Use the advice received from faculty mentors to polish your statement of purpose.
  • Obtain forms and materials needed to apply and register with online services (for each school you are considering).
  • Review each of the program applications carefully. Write drafts for application questions or essay topics and ask mentors for feedback.
  • Check and record the due date for each application.


  • Retake standardized tests if needed.
  • Finalize any scholarly writings, research samples, admissions essays that will accompany your applications.
  • Complete and submit applications with early deadlines.
  • Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) after October 1st. Keep in mind that graduate students are considered independent, which means you will not have to report parental information on the FAFSA.


  • Contact your undergraduate school’s Registrar office to arrange for your official transcript to be sent to each program to which you apply.
  • Complete any remaining application forms.
  • Apply for fellowships and assistantships (as applicable).


  • Submit applications with December or January due dates.
  • Verify that your recommendations have been sent.
  • Contact the admissions office by email or phone to ensure that your application has been received before the deadline (if you haven't already received confirmation).


  • Complete and submit applications for programs with relatively late deadlines. Generally, March 1st is the latest deadline of any program and most are earlier.


  • Plan for admissions interviews (depending on the application program). Prepare answers to common questions and practice interviewing with your family or friends. If you are invited to attend an admissions interview, you should plan to go even if it is optional.


  • Keep watch for correspondence from the graduate programs to which you applied, as you may begin receiving notifications offering admission, declining admission, or placing you on a waitlist.
  • Postpone making a decision until you have heard from all programs.


  • Visit schools to which you have been accepted to help you make a decision.
  • Compare offers from all programs. Discuss options with a trusted mentor.
  • Pick the best program for your educational and financial needs and accept their offer by May 1st.
  • Notify the programs to which you have been accepted but will be declining admission.
  • Consider taking out a Grad PLUS loan if you reach your maximum loan limits with Unsubsidized Stafford loans.

For more information about graduate school, read Going Grad and Preparing for and Applying to Grad School.


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