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Feb 19, 2020 Return to Blog Homepage

A General Timeline for Applying to Graduate School

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Since the turn of the century, the number of people with a master’s degree and the number of people with a doctoral degree has doubled to 21 million and 4.5 million respectively (United States Census Bureau). A graduate degree is becoming more and more critical to things like upward career mobility and financial opportunity. Preparing and applying to graduate school can be a long and complicated process. We’ve provided a general timeline below. Please note the timeline below is general, for more accurate deadlines please consult an academic advisor.


A commonly asked question by students applying to graduate school is, “When should I apply?” The short answer is it varies from school and even by the program at the same school. It’s never too early to begin research schools or programs. Often it’s a good idea to start studying for entrance exams during your junior year and to take the entrance exams before beginning your senior year.


Freshman Year: 

  • Meet with an academic advisor to plan out your schedule. 

  • Start building your resume by getting involved on campus, volunteering, joining research labs, or working a part-time job. 


Sophomore Year: 

  • Keep your grades up and consider taking on leadership positions in any organization you’re in. 

  • Speak with faculty or career advisors at your school, they can help you figure out if grad school is right for you and make sure you’re on track to meet your goals.

  • Apply for summer internships or work experiences that will strengthen your resume.

Tip: do your best to maintain strong relationships with instructors or faculty advisors, it’ll make things much easier down the road when you need to ask for a letter of recommendation!


Junior Year: 

  • Begin studying for the relevant entrance exam during the summer before starting your junior year.

  • Start researching programs and schools you might be interested in.

Tip: organize the schools you’re interested in on a spreadsheet including categories that summarize what’s important to you (i.e. tuition, average GRE/MCAT/LSAT/etc scores, application deadlines)


Senior Year: 

  • Ask instructors or mentors to write you a letter of recommendation. Don’t forget to give them a heads up several weeks in advance.

  • Many schools ask for a statement of purpose or intent which is your opportunity to personalize your application and highlight why you’re a good fit for their program. 

  • Verify any deadline dates and create a checklist for each school (i.e. unofficial/official transcripts, test scores, personal statements, etc.)



Written by: Leah Mercedes Sprock

Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology, Current Student