Graduate School Application Timeline

Graduate School Application Timeline


Graduate School Application Timeline

So you’re already thinking about graduate school application season, but aren’t sure how to structure your time? Not to worry. Here’s a breakdown of a standard graduate school application timeline. Keep in mind that you’ll want to structure your own based on your personal situation and school deadlines.

 

12-6 Months Before Application Due Dates

Decide where you’re going to apply. You’ll want to do some serious research on which programs are right for you before starting on specific application materials. Each program will have different requirements, standards, and admission criteria, and you won’t be able successfully prepare until you know what’s required, where you’re aiming, and general deadlines. Most U.S. PhD programs have a December 15 – January 15 deadline for submissions, but a lot of masters degrees, MBA programs, and UK programs have varying deadlines so it’s good to keep a spreadsheet of when everything has to be completed.
Some programs may expect high general GRE scores, others may require a GRE subject score, and still others may not require the GRE at all! These differences will be important when deciding how much time you need for application prep, so get a rough list of programs decided early on. If you aren’t sure where to apply, or how to even begin looking, read through our graduate school beginner’s guide to get some ideas.
Once you have a list down, make a list of things like average GRE score of accepted applicants, application due date, if they require a personal statement or writing sample, and how many recommendation letters they require. Also be mindful of how many applications you want to submit. Each schools will need a customized Statement of Purpose so if you’re applying to 10 different programs, you’ll a month or two just to write all those statements!

 

 

8-4 Months Before Deadlines

Once you know where you’ll be applying, it’s time to begin GRE prep. If your applications are due in December/January, try to spend the summer before that studying for the general (or subject) exams, and take them in August or September. How much time you need to dedicate to GRE prep will depend on your situation.
We highly advice applicants to sign up for the exam in August or September, even if your applications aren’t due until January. 
There are any number of reasons you may want (or need) to retake the GRE, and you’re required to wait 21 days before retaking it. So if you get the flu, have a personal emergency, another test taker bothers you the whole exam, or maybe you just didn’t get the score you needed, you need a minimum of a 3 week buffer in order to take it a second time.
If you take it in late August, you could conceivably bomb it and still have another two full months to study before you need to retake it in time for December 15th deadlines. At the very minimum, this knowledge should help keep your nerves in check. If you take it November 21st, that test is literally your only shot! That kind of pressure rarely helps a persons performance.
This is also when you should start an financial outline for the total cost of applications. This includes: cost of sending official transcripts (if they require paper copies for applications), cost of sending your GRE score ($27 per school after test day), application fees (~$50-$130), the cost of the GRE ($160), plus any GRE prep materials ($0-$800). Because most applications are due around the same time (which also coincides with the holidays) you don’t want to get stuck loading up on credit card debt last minute, so try to plan ahead financially.
Tip: Don’t book your GRE exam before you’ve had a chance to do a practice test and start reviewing. You may get 2 weeks into an expensive prep class only to realize you’ll need much more time than you thought to get the score you need. Exam slots fill up fast in autumn and it costs $50 to reschedule, so make sure you’ll be ready before finalizing your test date.

 

5-3 Months Before Applications are Due

Time for those letters of recommendation to take front and center. As we’ve outlined in our letter of recommendation guide, it’s necessary to take a hands on approach to your recommendations, which will take up a reasonable amount of your time. In addition, you always need to give your recommenders plenty of time to get back to you, make edits, and submit to all the programs you’re applying to. Don’t get started on this process any later than beginning of October for a December deadline!
Week 1: Decide to who to ask, gather materials outlined in our LoR guide, and email professors.
Week 2: Wait to hear back–it might be a few days or even a week before you get a response!
Week 3: Discuss your expectations, help with a draft letter, and general follow up.
Week 5-8: Polish, review, discuss, submit.
With a timeline like that, you’re looking at a 2 months minimum between when you begin the process of asking for a letter, and it actually gets submitted. Get this out of the way early if you can!

 

 3-1 Month Before Application Deadlines

Crunch time! At this stage you’re probably obsessed with applications, and you’re second guessing every decision you make. Should I be applying to more schools? Am I applying to too many? Is my GRE score good enough for these programs?
Relax, and focus. This is when you should be spending all your time on your Statements of Purpose and your CV. Your CV will be the same for each application, but your statement of purpose needs to be custom tailored to each and every program you’re applying to–without exception! To learn why read through our statement of purpose guide. Your CV should take about 1-2 weeks of writing, reviewing, editing. Assuming you did proper research on your intended programs a few months ago, each statement of purpose should take about a week to write, allowing for a few days off before doing a final proofread, and then another week for you to get others to proofread it for you.
As with grant writing, books, or programming–the best products are those which go through the proofread, iterate, and proofread, cycle the most times. Even if you think it’s absolutely perfect–set it aside for a week and don’t look at it once. Then read it with fresh eyes. You’ll likely find wording you think is a little clumsy, or a couple sentences that suddenly seem redundant. This process is what separates great pieces of writing from generic ones. Building in time to do this will 100% guarantee you better statements. There is just no way to write an SoP in 24 hours that compares to one that is crafted over the course of weeks.

 

1 Month – 2 Weeks before Deadlines

Submission time is finally here! The two important things to keep in mind this late in the game are (1) Don’t make last minute changes, you’ll only do damage and (2) Submit before the deadline, because technical glitches do happen. Number two is particularly important these days, because many more thousands of people are applying to graduate school. This makes crashes and delays more likely. To combat this a lot of programs have instigated online application systems that actually let you submit, but you can still upload different or additional documents up until the deadline. This is ideal because you know your application was submitted, but if you catch an error a day or two later, you still have time to fix it before the deadline if you have to.

 

1-2 Months After Submission Deadline

After submitting comes one of the most difficult parts of this whole process: waiting. In your graduate school application timeline, January-March is when you can plan to hear back from most programs. If they intend to interview you, you’ll likely hear back mid-January to early February. It’s unlikely you’ll get an interview request later than that. If your intended program doesn’t interview, you can start getting acceptances as early as the second week of January. That said, plenty of departments trickle their acceptance letters into late March, even April in many cases, so if you don’t hear anything by February, don’t start panicking! This is perfectly normal.

 

April 15th: The Final Deadline

Most U.S. PhD programs have an April 15th decision deadline, meaning you have to commit (usually in writing) to which school you’re attending. This is the final graduate school application deadline to be aware of. Once you’ve made your decision, you can start getting excited about all the wonderful changes the following year is going to bring! If you’re grad school bound, read through our Summer Before Grad School tips on how to make sure you’re prepared.

 

 

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Yes. But you probably shouldn’t turn down a grad school interview. Next question…… Not a satisfying answer? Ok, we’ll elaborate. Note: If you want to attend, but have ...

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Graduate School Application Timeline

Graduate School Application Timeline April 22nd, 2016


Graduate School Application Timeline

So you’re already thinking about graduate school application season, but aren’t sure how to structure your time? Not to worry. Here’s a breakdown of a standard graduate school application timeline. Keep in mind that you’ll want to structure your own based on your personal situation and school deadlines.

 

12-6 Months Before Application Due Dates

Decide where you’re going to apply. You’ll want to do some serious research on which programs are right for you before starting on specific application materials. Each program will have different requirements, standards, and admission criteria, and you won’t be able successfully prepare until you know what’s required, where you’re aiming, and general deadlines. Most U.S. PhD programs have a December 15 – January 15 deadline for submissions, but a lot of masters degrees, MBA programs, and UK programs have varying deadlines so it’s good to keep a spreadsheet of when everything has to be completed.
Some programs may expect high general GRE scores, others may require a GRE subject score, and still others may not require the GRE at all! These differences will be important when deciding how much time you need for application prep, so get a rough list of programs decided early on. If you aren’t sure where to apply, or how to even begin looking, read through our graduate school beginner’s guide to get some ideas.
Once you have a list down, make a list of things like average GRE score of accepted applicants, application due date, if they require a personal statement or writing sample, and how many recommendation letters they require. Also be mindful of how many applications you want to submit. Each schools will need a customized Statement of Purpose so if you’re applying to 10 different programs, you’ll a month or two just to write all those statements!

 

 

8-4 Months Before Deadlines

Once you know where you’ll be applying, it’s time to begin GRE prep. If your applications are due in December/January, try to spend the summer before that studying for the general (or subject) exams, and take them in August or September. How much time you need to dedicate to GRE prep will depend on your situation.
We highly advice applicants to sign up for the exam in August or September, even if your applications aren’t due until January. 
There are any number of reasons you may want (or need) to retake the GRE, and you’re required to wait 21 days before retaking it. So if you get the flu, have a personal emergency, another test taker bothers you the whole exam, or maybe you just didn’t get the score you needed, you need a minimum of a 3 week buffer in order to take it a second time.
If you take it in late August, you could conceivably bomb it and still have another two full months to study before you need to retake it in time for December 15th deadlines. At the very minimum, this knowledge should help keep your nerves in check. If you take it November 21st, that test is literally your only shot! That kind of pressure rarely helps a persons performance.
This is also when you should start an financial outline for the total cost of applications. This includes: cost of sending official transcripts (if they require paper copies for applications), cost of sending your GRE score ($27 per school after test day), application fees (~$50-$130), the cost of the GRE ($160), plus any GRE prep materials ($0-$800). Because most applications are due around the same time (which also coincides with the holidays) you don’t want to get stuck loading up on credit card debt last minute, so try to plan ahead financially.
Tip: Don’t book your GRE exam before you’ve had a chance to do a practice test and start reviewing. You may get 2 weeks into an expensive prep class only to realize you’ll need much more time than you thought to get the score you need. Exam slots fill up fast in autumn and it costs $50 to reschedule, so make sure you’ll be ready before finalizing your test date.

 

5-3 Months Before Applications are Due

Time for those letters of recommendation to take front and center. As we’ve outlined in our letter of recommendation guide, it’s necessary to take a hands on approach to your recommendations, which will take up a reasonable amount of your time. In addition, you always need to give your recommenders plenty of time to get back to you, make edits, and submit to all the programs you’re applying to. Don’t get started on this process any later than beginning of October for a December deadline!
Week 1: Decide to who to ask, gather materials outlined in our LoR guide, and email professors.
Week 2: Wait to hear back–it might be a few days or even a week before you get a response!
Week 3: Discuss your expectations, help with a draft letter, and general follow up.
Week 5-8: Polish, review, discuss, submit.
With a timeline like that, you’re looking at a 2 months minimum between when you begin the process of asking for a letter, and it actually gets submitted. Get this out of the way early if you can!

 

 3-1 Month Before Application Deadlines

Crunch time! At this stage you’re probably obsessed with applications, and you’re second guessing every decision you make. Should I be applying to more schools? Am I applying to too many? Is my GRE score good enough for these programs?
Relax, and focus. This is when you should be spending all your time on your Statements of Purpose and your CV. Your CV will be the same for each application, but your statement of purpose needs to be custom tailored to each and every program you’re applying to–without exception! To learn why read through our statement of purpose guide. Your CV should take about 1-2 weeks of writing, reviewing, editing. Assuming you did proper research on your intended programs a few months ago, each statement of purpose should take about a week to write, allowing for a few days off before doing a final proofread, and then another week for you to get others to proofread it for you.
As with grant writing, books, or programming–the best products are those which go through the proofread, iterate, and proofread, cycle the most times. Even if you think it’s absolutely perfect–set it aside for a week and don’t look at it once. Then read it with fresh eyes. You’ll likely find wording you think is a little clumsy, or a couple sentences that suddenly seem redundant. This process is what separates great pieces of writing from generic ones. Building in time to do this will 100% guarantee you better statements. There is just no way to write an SoP in 24 hours that compares to one that is crafted over the course of weeks.

 

1 Month – 2 Weeks before Deadlines

Submission time is finally here! The two important things to keep in mind this late in the game are (1) Don’t make last minute changes, you’ll only do damage and (2) Submit before the deadline, because technical glitches do happen. Number two is particularly important these days, because many more thousands of people are applying to graduate school. This makes crashes and delays more likely. To combat this a lot of programs have instigated online application systems that actually let you submit, but you can still upload different or additional documents up until the deadline. This is ideal because you know your application was submitted, but if you catch an error a day or two later, you still have time to fix it before the deadline if you have to.

 

1-2 Months After Submission Deadline

After submitting comes one of the most difficult parts of this whole process: waiting. In your graduate school application timeline, January-March is when you can plan to hear back from most programs. If they intend to interview you, you’ll likely hear back mid-January to early February. It’s unlikely you’ll get an interview request later than that. If your intended program doesn’t interview, you can start getting acceptances as early as the second week of January. That said, plenty of departments trickle their acceptance letters into late March, even April in many cases, so if you don’t hear anything by February, don’t start panicking! This is perfectly normal.

 

April 15th: The Final Deadline

Most U.S. PhD programs have an April 15th decision deadline, meaning you have to commit (usually in writing) to which school you’re attending. This is the final graduate school application deadline to be aware of. Once you’ve made your decision, you can start getting excited about all the wonderful changes the following year is going to bring! If you’re grad school bound, read through our Summer Before Grad School tips on how to make sure you’re prepared.

 

 

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