Now that the holidays have passed and the gloomy winter will be over soon, those interested in pursuing an advanced degree should start buckling down. The beginning of the year is the best time for students to begin sorting out their preferences and narrowing down a list of schools to visit in the spring. Following campus visits, there are many other steps students can take to choose the best grad program for them. This timeline should help streamline the process and keep applicants on track in their pursuit of grad school .
February – April
Research is crucial in the initial stages of the college search. Students should consider which program they're interested in and create a list of schools that provide a quality education in that field and meet their geographical needs. Beginning the search early in the year allows ample time to discover which schools are at the top of applicants' lists, and which requirements they'll need to stand out to their favorite schools.
"The spring is the perfect time to start visiting schools."
May – July
The spring is the perfect season to start visiting schools and talking with faculty and students. It would be valuable for prospective students to set aside some time during a tour to meet with professors who can give insight into what the program is really like. These months are also the ideal time for applicants to begin drafting personal statements and looking into test preparation courses.
August – October
About one year prior to the first semester of grad school, applicants should begin compiling all of the necessary materials for their applications, noted Idealist.org, an online resource for jobs, internships and volunteer work. Prospective students are encouraged to gather transcripts from their school and extend requests to professors and employers for letters of recommendation. It's important to allow enough time for a well-crafted note, as well as some padding in the event that someone fails to meet the application deadline.
This is also the time for students to take the required tests necessary for their schools and programs of choice. According to the Educational Testing Service, an applicant can take the GRE once every 21 days, up to five times, within 365 days. This makes it even more important for those pursuing grad school to take tests as early as possible and be prepared for any obstacles that may come their way.
November – January
Around this time, students should send their applications with all parts completed: the application itself, their transcripts, essays, recommendations and test scores. It's also a good idea to follow up each application with a quick note ensuring that all materials were received. This not only demonstrates an applicant's passion for the program and attention to detail, but it also helps prevent months of hard work from potentially going to waste due to an incomplete application.
Also, as Jan. 1 approaches, it's crucial for students to work on their financial aid profiles. Since many grants and funding is on a first come, first served basis, a timely application puts students in a better position to receive optimal financial help.
By Monique Smith