During Your Junior Academic Year (first half)
____ Generally, the junior year should be when you take your most demanding courses. It is a good idea to find out during the summer what textbooks you will need for your first-semester courses and start reading before school starts.
____ If you haven’t already done so, this is the time to make definite decisions about the career you want to pursue (you can always change your mind and your plans someday down the road). Find out everything you can about what this type of career involves. Find out if there is a mentorship program at your school that you can join.
____ Talk to seniors in your major field who are on the graduate school track. Ask them what they have learned about various graduate programs and the graduate school application process (you may discover that you are better informed than they are!). Ask them about their experiences with soliciting support from faculty members in your department.
____ Begin networking with graduate students in your department, if there are any. The best way to start may be to talk with the teaching assistants for your professors’ courses, as most T.A.’s are also graduate students.
____ Learn about the research and/or other interests of the
various faculty in your department. Visit with one or more who seem to
be well-matched to your own interests and volunteer to help them. Let
them know about your graduate school plans.
____ Start to get acquainted with the directories, Internet web sites, etc., which describe graduate programs in your field of interest.
____ Note what time of year seniors in your major field are dealing with their graduate school applications. Late fall and early winter are common periods for this as graduate programs in many disciplines have application deadlines between the beginning of January and the end of March. Keep in mind that a majority of students will have started later than they should have. If you know someone who is dealing with applications, ask if you can examine the materials.
____ Check with an undergraduate advisor in your department or with the Registrar’s office to make sure you are still on the right track for fulfilling your graduation requirements next year.
During Your Junior Year (second half)
____ Take courses taught by professors whose interests are most in line with yours. Put all you can into these courses as you will probably be asking these professors for letters of recommendation next year.
____ Research financial-aid opportunities. Remember that application deadlines for many scholarships come long before you will be applying to graduate programs.
____ Early in this semester you should begin looking for summer job or internship opportunities in your field. Don’t wait until the semester is almost over, or someone else may beat you to the best opportunities.
____ This semester may also be a good time to start preparing for any standardized tests you will need to write. If you write tests during the late spring or in the summer, then you may have an opportunity to rewrite in the event that you do poorly the first time. If you decide not to write your standardized tests until the late summer or fall, then you should delay most of your preparation until this semester is over so that you can concentrate on your coursework.
____ Check with professors whom you are likely to ask for letters of recommendation next year to make sure that they expect to be on campus then. Remember that some professors may be on sabbatical leave, in retirement, or moving to a different locale and unavailable to write letters for you.
____ Make a preliminary draft of your resume or curriculum vitae, if you plan to use one.