You need to begin preparing to apply at least a year before you expect to enter a graduate program. If you are currently an undergraduate student, this means the spring of your junior year or the summer before your senior year.  The time table below is intended to give you an idea of the steps you should take to apply to graduate school. Keep in mind that it is approximate and you will need to adapt it to your personal situation.

Most graduate schools start in the fall with application deadlines usually occurring between the December and February before; however, as you build your timetable, you need to pay very close attention to deadlines and try to complete applications well before the due date in case you encounter any unexpected roadblocks.

Click here to download a pdf document of the timeline below.

Freshman-Sophomore Year

  • Engage in career explorations activities to identify potential career paths
  • If you are pursuing areas such as law, medicine or veterinary sciences, identify the typical prerequisite courses needed for graduate school
  • Meet with a career consultant to discuss ways to build your resume

Junior Year: Fall

  • Decide on the type of graduate program that is consistent with your career goals
  • Create a list of your top 5 or 10 values and criteria and then identify 10 to 15 prospective graduate schools that match your needs
  • Contact each prospective graduate school and request course catalogs, applications, financial aid information, and other literature that is relevant to your decision-making process; you may have to contact both the specific department and the graduate school
  • Inquire about pre-requisite courses and  minimum admissions requirements

Junior Year: Spring and Summer

  • Determine which standardized tests are required for your program of interest; take a practice test and enroll in a test preparation program if necessary
  • Sign up for entrance exams required by your program of choice
  • If the program you are applying to uses a clearinghouse (law or medicine), begin gathering the information required by that clearinghouse
  • Begin looking into financial aid options such as loans, scholarships, fellowships and graduate assistantships
  • Identify letters of recommendation
  • Start saving funds for application fees, campus visits, etc
  • Update resume
  • Begin writing a rough draft of your personal statement or essay; see “Writing a Personal Statement” for more information

Senior Year: Fall

  • Take entrance exams, if you haven’t already done so
  • Initiate an exploratory discussion by phone or in person with the department chair-person or a faculty member at each of your prospective universities to establish report and narrow down your prospective schools
  • Generate a final list of universities to which you want to apply; The Career Center recommends applying the “rule of 6”—choose two “reach,” two “middle-of-the-pack,” and two “safe bets”
  • Finalize versions of your personal statement and resume; have it proofed by 3 different people including your career counselor
  • Order transcripts from all of your post-secondary institutions
  • Give recommenders information about your reasons for attending graduate school, deadlines, etc.
  • Complete application forms;  Make copies of each before sending
  • Mail all applications well before the deadline
  • Apply for grants, fellowships and assistantships
  • Fill out the FAFSA  as close to January 1st as possible to qualify for federal aid

Senior Year: Spring

  • Prepare for possible interviews; conduct a mock interview at the Career Center
  • Contact schools about scheduling visits
  • Assess your financial aid package; if it doesn’t meet your needs, apply for alternative options; see ”Financing Your Education” for more information
  • Make a decision and pay your deposit
  • Call other programs to decline their offer or withdraw your application
  • Write thank you letters
  • If you did not get in, consult “What To Do if I Don't Get Accepted?

Once You are Accepted

  • If you applied as an undergraduate, submit a final transcript as soon as your degree is conferred
  • Get the required immunizations if necessary
  • Finalize your financial aid
  • Continue to check all forms of communication, including your new university address, for updates and program requirements

Portions of this website were adapted with permission from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville’s Admission Guide for Graduate School.