During Your Senior Academic Year
Things will start to speed up after the summer ends, and your planning should now be on a monthly or even weekly basis. If it is not necessary to take a full course load in both semesters of your senior year, try to keep your load as light as possible during the first semester, when you will be dealing with the most hectic part of the application process. It is better to have a heavier course load in the second semester when you are already done with most of the application work.
___ Organize the application packages you’ve requested as they begin to arrive, with a separate folder for each program.
___ If possible, take an additional course taught by professors with whom you have taken an earlier course, and whom you will be asking for a letter of recommendation.
___ Start to put together a package to give to your references to help them write effective letters for you. Order a copy of your transcripts, and make photocopies to include in this package.
___ Contact the financial aid offices at the schools on your list and ask for information about the aid available to graduate students.
___ Finalize the list of programs to which you will apply.
___ Note whether any of the programs require submission of financial-assistance forms prior to the program application deadlines.
___ Find out if there are any workshops or short courses at your school aimed at helping students deal with graduate school applications. Various departments and student associations run these helpful courses during the fall.
___ Begin brainstorming about your personal statements or essays. Remember that you should probably spend a couple of weeks preparing ideas before you actually begin writing.
___ Order official transcripts to be sent to the programs to which you are applying. If you wrote your standardized tests earlier, arrange with the testing service to have your official scores sent to the right programs. Remember that these requests must be made at least six weeks prior to the programs’ application deadlines. If you wait until December to order transcripts and test scores for a February 1 deadline, you will have to hope that those individuals fulfilling your orders do everything right. It is wiser to play it safe by making your requests an extra four to six weeks earlier.
___ Request letters of recommendation from your references.
___ Begin writing your personal statements or essays.
___ Confirm that your school sent the transcripts you requested last month.
___ Finish your personal statements or essays if you haven’t already done so. Get feedback prior to preparing your final drafts.
___ Fill out applications forms.
___ Work on your application cover letter, if one is needed.
___ Send your applications now so they arrive a few weeks before the application deadline. (Remember, this sample timetable assumes a February 1 deadline). Make photocopies of all the materials in each application package before you mail them.
___ The grades you received in courses that you just finished were not included in your earlier transcripts. Order transcripts for these courses now and have them sent to the programs to which you are applying.
___ If you have time over the holidays, and if you can afford it, make an effort to visit any interesting programs that you weren’t able to visit during the previous summer.
___ If you are applying to programs that conduct preselection interviews, start planning now to make sure that you will have the money you need to attend an interview in the spring, if you happen to be invited for one.
___ This is the time for following up, and correcting any last-minute deficiencies. Check with your references to see if they have sent your letters of recommendation. Call the programs to make sure your applications have arrived and are complete.
___ You may need to apply for student loans at this time if you think you will need this form of financial aid when graduate school begins in the fall.
___ Once you have confirmed that everything is in order with all of your applications, you should probably try to forget about them for a couple of weeks and just concentrate on any coursework you have ongoing. All matters concerning your applications are out of your hands at this point, and you may need some distractions to help deal with any undue anxiety you have about this.
___ If you have applied to programs that conduct pre-selection interviews, start preparing in case you are invited for one.