Grad School Application Timeline

Like many things that carry a deadline, it’s best to make a start as early as possible.

Applying to graduate school is no exception, so we’ve put together a handy timeline so you know when you should be taking action on all steps of the application process.

During your Bachelor’s degree at college

If you know you want to attend grad school at this stage, it’s a good idea to think about what you choose to learn during your time here, as this can have a bearing on the quality of your application.

Try to study relevant topics or courses, do some research or work experience if possible, and try to build connections with faculty. Letters of recommendation from your college faculty carry a lot of sway with graduate school admissions tutors, so forming relationships with these staff will help you enormously later on.

Focusing on your degree throughout the whole three years will help you obtain a high GPA, which will improve the chances of your application being successful.


During the Spring before you apply, think about taking the appropriate standardized tests required for admission to your chosen course. Depending on the program you are applying for, you will take one of the following:

It’s important to think about taking this early so that you have time to retake it later on if necessary.

Summer/Early Autumn

  • During the summer and the September before making your application, take any standardized tests required for admission to your program if you haven’t already done so.
  • You should also start doing some research online into graduate programs that might interest you. Look carefully at the websites of universities you are considering applying to - who are their department faculty? What facilities does the institution offer? What are the entry requirements for the program and are you realistically able to meet them? If their website doesn’t answer all of your questions, email or phone the graduate admissions department for more information. Don’t forget you will be studying here for at least a couple of years, so it’s important to choose the right grad school for you.
  • Make a note of the deadline for each program application to ensure you don’t miss them. Creating a calendar to record all dates relating to your grad school applications is a good way to ensure you don’t miss any deadlines or other key dates in the process. This will help you keep track of all your applications, as well as making you feel more organised and less anxious throughout the coming months.
  • Think about which faculty members at your current college you might approach for letters of recommendation.


  • Start looking at ways of funding your grad school studies.
  • Read through the application process of each program you are applying for carefully. Make any note of anything that is unclear, as well as any personal statement essay topics that you will need to write about.
  • Put together the first draft of your graduate admissions essay. You will need to think about completing this sooner if you are applying for programs with early deadlines or rolling admissions. Ask family, friends, faculty members and career advisors for their feedback on your admissions essay - take their comments on board, but don’t incorporate them if you feel they don’t make your essay a better piece of writing overall.
  • Ask your chosen faculty members for their letters of recommendation. To help them out, provide a copy of your transcript, links to each program you are applying for, any relevant forms, and your admissions essay. Follow up afterwards to check they have everything they need, so they can write your letters in a timely fashion.


  • Send off your official transcript for each grad school program you are applying for. You will need to go to the Registrar’s office to ask for this, but if your application(s) are not due before 1st December, request that they hold your transcript until grades from the Fall semester are in.
  • Polish your admissions essay so you now have a final version that you can send off with your application(s). You should have completed at least several drafts, all involving rounds of feedback from others.
  • Apply for grants, loans, fellowships and any other sources of financial aid for your graduate studies.


  • Fill out the application form for each of your programs. These should usually be online, but some may require a hard copy via the mail. Check them carefully for any spelling or grammar mistakes, and make sure all contact information such as names and email addresses are correct. Read through your admission essays again, and/or your statement of purpose. Don’t just rely on a spell checker for this, as it will not always pick up every mistake. Once you have uploaded these on to the form, check there are no spacing or formatting issues, and separate the text into paragraphs to make it easier to read for admissions tutors. If you are uploading these documents as a PDF or other type of file, make sure you check for any errors before doing so.
  • Wait to hear from your chosen grad schools. Most should send you an acknowledgement email once they have received your application, but if they don’t, it’s worth contacting them to check. File away all communications with schools safely into a separate folder in your email, so you don’t delete any by mistake and can refer to them as and when later on.


  • It’s never too early to start preparing for your admissions interviews. Think about what questions you want to ask the tutors, and what they might ask you.
  • Find your tax forms and fill out the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application.


  • Attend visit days to schools you have been accepted to. Many universities have dedicated days for prospective graduate students. This is a great way of finding out more about the school, as you will usually get a guided tour, a chance to talk to the professors, and speak to students currently studying the program.
  • Talk to counselors about why you may have received a rejection from one or more schools, and think about how you will decide which program you will join from those you have been accepted on to.
  • Notify the program you would like to accept, and decline all other programs. It’s generally a good idea to wait until you have heard from all of your programs before making a final decision on where to attend.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying to graduate school, please see: