Graduate School Planning: Getting Started

SELECTING SCHOOLS...Finding a “best-fit” graduate school requires establishing criteria that are important to you. Some aspects you may wish to consider are:

- Kinds of employment of alumni of the program; versatility of degree
- Attrition (% of students who drop out of the program)
- Depth and diversity in the faculty; faculty publications; availability of faculty 
- Internships/Assistantships; fellowships/funds
- Accreditation - Assistance in finding a job
- Admission preferences
- Demographics: school size, geographic location, cost of living, culture, transportation

In addition, it is a good idea to talk with alumni and current students of the graduate school for their input and perspectives.  Visit the institution to gain first-had information, to meet with faculty, and to see the facilities.  Check out the town, including options for living.  Prepare questions and topics you wish to discuss in advance of your visit.  This will save you time and will make a good impression. 

Graduate School Databases. Interested in attending graduate school but have no idea of the programs offered or the schools offering them? Then check out some of the excellent graduate school databases online.  We’ll recommend four of them:          Peterson’s Planner         Graduate Guide


This timetable represents the ideal for most students. Adjust the timetable accordingly to meet institutional deadlines.

Junior year (Fall and Spring)

  • Research areas of interest, institutions, programs
  • Talk to advisers about application requirements
  • Register and prepare for appropriate graduate/professional school admission tests
  • Investigate national scholarships
  • If appropriate, obtain letters of recommendation

Junior year (Summer)

  • Take required admission tests
  • Write for application materials
  • Consider visiting institutions of interest
  • Write your application essay

Senior Year (Fall)

  • Obtain letters of recommendation
  • Take graduate/professional school admission tests
  • Send in completed applications
  • Register for Graduate and Professional School Financial Aid Service (GAPSFAS), if required

Senior year (Spring)

  • Check with all institutions before deadline to be certain your file is complete
  • Visit institutions that accept youSend a deposit to the institution of your choice
  • Notify other schools of your decisions to NOT attend
  • Send thank you notes to individuals that wrote letters of recommendation for you; notify them of your success.