General graduate school application timeline

The ideal time to begin your planning for graduate/professional school is at least one year before you plan to start a graduate program. (Current students: Summer before your senior year of college)

Everyone's timeline will vary based on field of interest, program and university, but this timeline can serve as a guide. Professional programs in health and medical fields may require applications to be submitted a year in advance of beginning a program.


  • Start a rough draft of your personal statement (statement of interest). 
  • Begin the search for graduate programs via websites and college catalogs

Don't limit yourself to only one program, search multiple programs.


  • Meet with faculty/staff members and Career Services staff to discuss your personal statement and learn about possible programs
  • Ask for letters of recommendation. Give your references at least a month to write a letter of recommendation. They may be writing letters for multiple people. Give them a copy of resume and personal statement to review.
  • Start to map our the application processes for each institution you are applying too. All programs vary in the deadlines and needs.
  • Sign up for the standardized tests (GRE, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT, etc.) 


  • Take standardized tests.
  • Determine the schools you plan to apply to and request application materials.
  • Finish your timeline based on each institution's deadline and financial aid deadlines.
  • Complete your personal statement, adjust it to meet each application's specific needs.
  • Order transcripts from all post-secondary institutions. (If fall semester grades are expected, then check with staff in the registrar's office to see if a transcript including fall semester grades can be sent in time to meet the deadlines of programs to which you are applying.)


  • Complete application forms. Make a copy of the form and practice before you fill out the official copy.
  • Give your references all the information that they will need to write recommendations for you for each of your application schools.


  • Mail applications. Even if deadlines are later, it is good to get the applications in early.


  • Contact programs about the possibility of visiting. Make trips if possible.


  • If you are applying for need based financial aid programs, you may have to file a copy of your federal income tax return.

Congratulations!!!! Share the good news with Career Services & your references. 

REFERENCE: Kidwell, Clara Sue & Hamblin, Jane A. (1999). Graduate School and You: A guide for prospective graduate students. Washington, D.C.: Council of Graduate Schools.