3 Months Before Applying

applying to graduate school

Road Map for Graduate Study: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students

by Dr. Donald C. Martin

1. Now it is time to make sure you have current application materials. You will most likely access applications on the web, but some graduate schools may still prefer that you send part or all of the application via regular mail. Having reviewed the information on your spreadsheet, you should be generally familiar with the deadlines you will need to meet for your applications.

2. Make sure to verify the requirements for admissions interviews (if applicable) and to revisit the interview deadlines for each option (you should already have some of this information on your research spreadsheet.) You should also have a general sense of why you are interested in a specific graduate program and that specific school. For instance, you should be able to express why you want to earn a master's of science in education with a concentration in higher education as opposed to early childhood education or if a dual master's degree might be more up your alley. 

3. If you have not already done so, start thinking about who you will ask to write letters of recommendation for you. If you are applying to several schools, be sure to have more than one or two individuals selected. If they are going to do a good job for you, they will need time to work on their recommendations. A good rule of thumb is: One person could probably do two or three recommendations. Once you have selected those you would like to use, contact them and get their approval.

4. Similar to the spreadsheet you created when initially doing research on your options, create an application spreadsheet. Place the names of each of your options alphabetically down the left hand column. Across the top place the items you want to be sure you remember, or compare, throughout the application process. Some of those items will include:

  • Application deadlines
  • The deadline by which you will apply
  • Ease of completing the application – i.e., user friendly technology?
  • Date you actually send in your application
  • Interview requirements
  • The date your interview was scheduled
  • Is the interview to be conducted on campus, in your area, by phone?
  • The date of your interview
  • Once conducted, your opinion of the interview questions, and of your interviewer.
  • Were you notified that your application had been received? If so, how long after you sent it in?
  • Your rating of the contact with the admissions staff between the time you applied and the time a decision was communicated to you
  • Did the admissions office its deadline to notify you of a decision?
  • If admitted, how was the follow-up afterward? Too much? Too little?
  • What is the enrollment deposit amount and deadline, if admitted?
  • What information do you need for financial aid purposes, if admitted?
  • Is there a campus visit program for newly admitted students?
  • If yes, and you attended, what did you think? Is this a place at which you would feel comfortable?
  • Were you “pursued” after admission? Do you really feel wanted?
  • If wait listed, how were you treated?
  • If denied, how were you treated?
  • Is deny or re-application feedback available?
  • If you chose to appeal your denial, was the admissions staff friendly and caring?

TIP: This is a great time to create outlines of the essays you will write. Jotting down notes for each question is extremely valuable and helps to ensure you answer questions fully. This also helps to ensure you answer the right questions for the right schools.

For the complete 12-month checklist, seven personal questions to ask about grad school, and much more, go to Dr. Martin’s website and order his book Road Map for Graduate Study

Dr. Donald C. Martin is an expert in the fields of enrollment management, student affairs and higher education administration. From 1980 to 2008 he managed divisions including admissions, financial aid, student development, registration/advising, and career, disabled and international services. 

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