Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated August 2010
Applying to grad school? It’s not too late to submit your application during the first round of admissions! Here’s everything you need to know about admissions dates, early applications, and ideal timelines….
Graduate schools’ rounds of admission
Many grad school programs structure their admissions around a series of dates, known as “rounds.” It’s not uncommon for a school to offer 3 rounds of acceptance, all for the same incoming class. Different schools post their own specific dates, but generally speaking, the rounds coincide with the following months:
- Round One Admissions: application deadline in October or November
- Round Two Admissions: application deadline in early January
- Round Three Admissions: application deadline in March or April
The advantages of an early application
There are several benefits that come with an early grad school application. And you still have a few weeks to take advantage of them! Most importantly, the competition tends to be slow. If you’re judged against the first round of applicants, you’re almost certain to be judged against less people – so the odds are in your favor. Other advantages include:
More time to review your financial aid award. If you wait to apply until the absolute last minute, you probably won’t receive your aid package until after you’ve already committed to attending the school. On the other hand, if you apply during the Round One phase, you’ll receive your award information well ahead of the response deadline. In this way, you can compare offers from different schools, and maybe even haggle for a better deal.
More time to complete your visa application. If you’re an international student, you’re well aware that the grad school application is only one step towards study in the US. You still need to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa. Early admission will allow more time to coordinate the process with your admitting program.
More time to coordinate housing or prerequisites. If your graduate school is located in a new city or state, you’ll need time to secure housing. Students who plan to live on campus can often obtain a better position in the campus housing lottery if they enter their names early. Grad schools mandate other preparations too – like medical exams, vaccinations, and sometimes prerequisite coursework. Getting these things done early can mean smoother sailing during your first semester.
The application timeline
If you’re aiming to submit all your materials by the Round One deadline (which is fast approaching…) you’ll need to take a quick inventory of your materials. Hopefully, you have the following components in hand:
Recommendations: Requesting letters of recommendation should be first on your to-do list. The extra time is a gesture of courtesy to your referees, who are doing you a favor, and are probably busy professionals. If you’re asking undergraduate professors to recommend you, be conscious of their semester schedule – i.e. wait until final exams are over. And don’t forget to write a thank you note!
GREs, GMAT or Other Standardized Tests: Register for any standardized tests you need to take – including the GRE or GMAT. These tests are offered on a regular basis, but space may be limited at the test center in your area. Once you complete the test, your score reports will be sent to the schools you’ve selected. Delivery takes 2 to 3 weeks – sometimes longer, if you have to request additional score reports. So don’t wait until the winter to sit for your standardized exam.
Personal Statement: The personal statement portion of the grad school application is often the most stressful. You can start working on yours as soon as possible, but doing it last offers a few advantages. For one thing, if you’re done with your standardized tests, you won’t feel pressured to study and write at the same time. Also, if you’ve spent recent months completing an internship or volunteer experience, you’ll be able to highlight that material in your essay.
Photo by Loren Javier