What should you do in the months before your graduate school application deadline? If you plan well, everything should run a lot more smoothly. Use the following as a guide to help you get your application done by the due date.
At 2-3 months out, which generally is November or December of your senior year of college, ask your professors (or others) for letters of recommendation. These are critical for your application’s success. Make sure you provide your “recommenders” with a copy of your transcript, and note detailing the grades you got in their classes or other highlights they should remember about you. Also, give them some information on the program you are applying to, as well as the recommendation guidelines issued by the school.
Keep in mind that each recommender should be given 6-8 weeks to complete the recommendation. (Even if they take longer, if you are following this timeline, you will be in good shape.)
Always remember to thank those that write you a recommendation.
Also, be sure to finalize your statement of purpose. Make sure someone besides you has reviewed it, preferably one with an English background or degree.
At 1 month out, have your transcript mailed to each program you are applying to. This will require a visit to the registrar’s office, or sometimes you can do it online. If you do this in January of your senior year, your transcript should include your fall grades. (*Note: before you send it, double check your transcript for any registrar errors, as this can happen occasionally.)
Also, send in your completed application with statement of purpose. Email your recommenders to find out the status of their recommendations, and whether they have sent them in.
Whew! If all of your application is in on-time and in top form, the hardest part is over, and you will have a leg up on the competition. Many applicants to graduate school feel rushed because they put off applying until the very last minute and thus falter on various facets of the application.
After you’ve turned in your application, you can begin to look for fellowships and scholarships. Some of these may require a separate application. If you need financial aid, search every avenue possible. Inquire (if you haven’t already) about teaching assistantships at your prospective schools. Fill out the FAFSA forms (federal student aid). Browse the internet for funding sources.
At 1-2 months after your application has been turned in, continue to apply for financing. Receive your notices of acceptance/declination. Make your final decision and notify your school that you will see them when class starts!