As a general rule of thumb, it is best to begin the process six to eight months prior to the application deadline.
Late fall/early spring deadlines for fall admission are most common but some programs offer other admission terms or cycles. Research your programs carefully for their specific admission terms and deadlines.
Example Grad School Admissions Timeline
This timeline uses typical fall admission deadlines as an example.
Summer (or six to eight months prior to application deadline)
- Write a draft statement of purpose/personal statement.
- Based on your interests expressed in the personal statement, start researching your way through guides to graduate programs, graduate program websites, and graduate school policy and course catalogs to determine the programs that best fit your needs.
- Talk to faculty members and/or work supervisors for recommendations. Focus specifically on programs that have faculty who match your research, skills, or career interests. Look at each program’s general reputation, time to degree, degree requirements, and any available funding support.
August – September (or four to six months prior to application deadline)
- Meet with faculty members and/or workplace supervisors you know to discuss your graduate school goals and share a draft of your personal statement for feedback.
- Ask faculty and/or workplace supervisors for letters of recommendation. The minimum number of letters requested by graduate programs is generally three, but make sure to follow each program’s specific application guidelines.
- Develop a reasonable personal timeline for preparing your application materials, based on your programs’ specific deadlines—including application and financial aid deadlines–using the earliest application deadline as your focal point. Allow time for feedback and revision.
- Register for any required standardized tests. Allow enough time to take the exam(s) again, as necessary.
October (or two to three months prior to application deadline)
- Take standardized tests.
- Determine the final list of specific schools to which you will apply, and research specific required application materials as well as the method of application.
- Finalize your statement of purpose/personal statement, based on feedback from your recommenders, and with any necessary adjustments to account for each application’s specific needs.
- Order transcripts from all post-secondary institutions, making sure of what each program applied to expects.
November (or one to two months prior to application deadline)
- Complete application forms; if possible, download forms from university website and do drafts of each.
- Provide all necessary information to each of your recommenders—a draft of your personal statement and any other relevant or desired materials that can assist them in writing an effective recommendation—for each of the schools to which you are applying.
December/January (or application deadline)
- Submit applications: do not wait until the final deadline. If possible, submit well in advance of the final deadline to ensure not only full consideration but also to allow additional time to request and/or resubmit any missing or incomplete materials.
- Contact the University’s Graduate School, your specific program’s graduate directors and/or Financial Aid Office to request information on scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships from the institutions to which you applied.
January/February (or within the first month or two post application)
- Contact programs about the possibility of visiting, and visit programs if possible, if you can make time in your schedule and have the financial resources. Some programs may require an interview, which may take place over video conference or in person.
- Consider the curriculum, the program requirements, and the research and professional development opportunities the program provides, and how those will translate to employment post-graduation.