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Grad School Timeline

grad school timeline

Whether you’re a procrastinator who rushes to do everything at the last second or someone who thoroughly plans every minute of your life, you’re going to want a grad school timeline to prepare your graduate applications. Applying to grad school is no easy task, and it requires a thorough grad school timeline. Nobody wants to be scrambling to send in a forgotten form right before a deadline closes! What should you do to avoid those kinds of hiccups?

2 Years Before Grad School: Figure Out What You Want

As many as two years before you plan to start graduate school, you should start thinking seriously about what you want to study. How long you need to spend on this process will vary, but it depends on how decided you are about your career. You should know the approximate field you want to work in at least two years before you plan to begin school. If you’re still deciding whether to become a brain surgeon or a Shakespearean actor, then you’re going to need to do some narrowing.

Once you’ve chosen a field, you have to decide the depth of your graduate studies. Do you want a Master’s, a PhD, or some other kind of professional degree? Do some research into factors such as the length of time to complete the degree, the career and earning potentials, and whether you have the appropriate qualifications for a program.

1+ Year Before: Make a Concrete Grad School Timeline

Once you’ve decided on the broad strokes of your grad school experience, you should proceed in your grad school timeline to making some concrete decisions. These include decisions about which schools to apply to, which professors will write your letters of recommendation, and what you want to articulate in your statement of purpose. At this stage, you should also start making a week-by-week plan, keeping in mind some important deadlines:

  • Application deadlines for the schools you decide to apply to.
  • When you want to take a standardized test like the GRE, and how long you need to study (our Magoosh study plans can help!). Allow enough time for your exam scores to reach schools by the application deadline, and leave room for a potential retake.
  • Schedule the GRE, allowing enough time for your scores to arrive at your programs.
  • Financial aid deadlines and applications for outside scholarships or funding.

9 to 12 Months Before: Begin Applying

This will be the most rigorous period of your grad school timeline. You might find yourself a bit overwhelmed – juggling GRE prep, statements of purpose, application forms, and daily life! That’s why making a week-by-week plan is so important. If you follow the plan, you won’t have to even think about missing anything, because you’ll have planned everything well in advance to ensure that the process goes smoothly.

If you need to take the GRE for grad school, this is when you’ll take it. You may even need to take it more than once. Don’t let that frustrate you — it’s common to take the exam more than once. In addition to taking the GRE, you should draft, edit, and finalize your statement of purpose. Keep in mind that you’ll likely be able to repurpose one document for all your applications. Have a friend or colleague edit the statement for you.

A lot of the application process can seem tedious, but doing everything thoroughly is important. You’ll need to gather documents like transcripts, professors’ recommendations, application forms, and test scores. You should also make sure you submit the appropriate financial documents for financial aid and scholarships. Plan to send everything in at least one week in advance to ensure it meets the deadline.

3 to 6 Months Before: Decision Time!

Three to six months before your start graduate school, you’ll start to get acceptance letters. It can be an exciting time, but also a disappointing time. You’ll likely experience wild swings of emotions. So it’s more important than ever that you not let your emotions cloud your decisions during this time.

Before your acceptance letters arrive, make sure your grad school timeline includes some key metrics you want to use to evaluate which school to attend. Do you care most about cost? Curriculum? Location? Faculty? Think about these things before your acceptances arrive, so you know what you want to consider during a period when things can get pretty emotional.

Once you choose a school, you’ll need to start looking for a place to live, choosing courses, planning your finances, and, best of all, making new friends! Grad school will be an exciting time in your life. You’ll learn new things, meet inspiring people, and prepare for an exciting career. Once you’re solidly moving in the grad school rhythm, think back about how important your grad school timeline was in getting you there!

Grad School Timeline Review:

  • 2 Years Before Grad School: Figure Out What You Want
  • 1+ Years Before: Make a Concrete Plan
  • 9 to 12 Months Before: Begin Applying
  • 3 to 6 Months Before: Make Your Decision

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