Magoosh Expert

Grad School Application Timeline: Building Grad School Profiles

Undergrads making Grad School Profiles

Why Make A Grad School Profile

Embarking on the journey to graduate school is an exciting chapter in your life! While it’s a significant decision, remember that you’re not alone in this process. One of the best ways to make this decision easier and more personalized is to create a graduate school profile. This exercise helps you align your unique needs and wants with the right graduate program, both making the process less overwhelming and you more empowered.

Your graduate school profile serves as your personalized standards list, offering clarity on what you’re seeking in a program. By using its criteria, you align your academic aspirations, personal preferences, and lifestyle needs with potential schools, ensuring a match that’s tailored for your success. It turns a wide array of options into a manageable, confidence-inspiring selection process.

Grad School Profile In Three Steps

Let’s dive into building your own graduate school profile with writing down a list made from following these basic steps based on your must-haves, nice-to-haves, and deal-breakers.

  • Step 1: Identify Your “Must-Haves”
    Let’s begin by evaluating your non-negotiables. What are the key elements that a graduate program should absolutely offer to meet your academic and personal needs? Suggested areas to consider are:

    • Faculty Research: If you’re interested in a particular research field, identifying programs with faculty members renowned for that area is crucial. The more aligned the faculty’s expertise with your interests, the better prepared you’ll be for professional experience among fellow practitioners.

    • Degree Type: Is a Master’s enough, or are you planning on a Doctorate? It’s essential to know the degree type that aligns with your learning and career goals.

    • Cohort Size: Would you thrive in a large, diverse group, or do you prefer a small, tight-knit community of scholars? Do you feel lost in crowds or do you thrive most when left to work independently?

    • Cost of Living: Consider the cost of living in the city where the university is located. Can you afford it with the resources at your disposal? Will you struggle for essentials like food and rent? Does the institution provide additional avenues of support and networking.

    • Location: Do you want to study in a specific city, state, or country? Do you prefer urban, suburban, or rural locales? Are there parts of the country you’d like to avoid considering. Location could impact your lifestyle, opportunities, and expenses. You may spend up to decade in the area of your graduate studies, so be sure its somewhere you want to be.

    • Travel Costs: If you go home for the holidays, or make frequent trips that add to your expenses you’ll want to know how easy or difficult it is to make those trips. Is there an airport? Are there other feasible travel options open to you such as train or bus? If you drive, are there tolls, and are you near a major highway?

    • Personal/Cultural Interests: A city or town may have one or many “scenes” such as food, music, or museums. These might be essential to your off-campus life, or they may simply enhance it.

    • Politics: All universities have their own cultures, determined by multiple factors that result in a prevailing political mood on campus. If you feel strongly about your political ideology or feel uncomfortable in politically charged environments, then this is an area that could be a deciding factor.

  • Step 2: Evaluate the “Nice-to-Haves”
    Items in step 1 that don’t rise to the level of an essential may yet sit at an optional level. Note down what additional elements could sway your decision.

    These are elements that are not deal-breakers, and would significantly enhance your experience. Other than the above areas you may find these among the often man perks of enrolling in specific institutions: maybe it’s an on-campus gym, certain student organizations, a program with numerous internship opportunities, or perhaps its a program located in a city with a vibrant music scene. These things may win you over, but would not determine your decision of where to study.


  • Step 3: Recognize Your Deal-Breakers
    Now that you have your lists of must-haves and nice to haves, you need to consider the deal-breakers. Perhaps you want an urban campus, but want four full seasons–that might rule out programs in the southwest where summer weather predominates year round. Vice versa, if you hate the winter many programs in the northeast and midwest may be ruled out.

    While you may be lucky and find multiple versions of the perfect program, more likely you’ll find yourself negotiating among multiple facets of your essentials and nice-to-haves. Deal-breakers are the highest priority essentials in the absence of which, you would immediately cross a school off your list. It could be high tuition fees, lack of diversity, a location that doesn’t align with your lifestyle and interests.

Using your Profile

When it comes to application timelines, most U.S. graduate schools have deadlines between December and February for fall intake. This may vary, so be sure to verify from each school’s official website. Start your application process well in advance to allow ample time for research, shortlisting, preparing application materials, and even retaking exams if necessary.

The search for the perfect graduate school can be stressful, but understanding your needs, wants, and deal-breakers can provide a key to finding the best fit for your academic journey. Using these three steps, you can now begin to shortlist programs based on their alignment with your criteria. It’s an iterative process, so don’t be disheartened if you need to revisit and refine your list several times.

Now, start navigating the world of grad school applications with confidence. And remember, every school that makes it to your list is already a win because it matches your unique aspirations and needs. Graduate school is a journey, and successful journeys begin with careful planning.

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