In an ideal timeline, you will use your freshman through junior years to explore your reason to attend graduate school, develop your experience, knowledge and skills to help prepare you for grad school and to research graduate programs. By the start of your senior year, you should begin compiling your application packet, crafting your writing components and taking the necessary examination(s).
Are you a senior or junior?
You still have plenty of time to create a successful graduate school application! The timeline provided below is solely a suggestion, please adapt this information to suit your personal needs. And keep in mind, you may decide that you would like to take a year, or a few, between your undergraduate and graduate studies. This is not at all uncommon: many students decide to gain more experience, travel the world or work before entering graduate school. If you decide to do this, make sure you prepare as much as possible before leaving campus (letters of recommendations, GRE, etc).
Freshman and Sophomore Years
- Decide if graduate school is for you: the Sanger Learning & Career Center (CEC) will help you decide if it's the right decision.
- Consider what you would like to study: define your research and scholarly interests.
- Take courses that can help prepare you for graduate school: find out what courses are required of graduate programs and which of your undergraduate courses can fulfill the requirement (i.e., economics doctorate programs require math courses above and beyond that required of undergrads, so take more math classes).
- Participate in student organizations, community service, internships and research projects to develop skills, experience and knowledge.
- Take undergraduate courses taught by tenured faculty who are active in your department's graduate program: ask your academic advisor for suggestions. Be sure to speak up in class and visit your professor during office hours so that s/he knows you and is familiar with your academic interests.
- Participate in a research project.
- Connect with graduate students and faculty to learn more about graduate school.
- Research university programs for the best options to fit your interests.
- Refine your research interest area: consider what the research topic might be for your statement of purpose.
- Keep up your GPA: most programs recommend a minimum 3.5 upper-division GPA.
- Use course writing assignments to create potential application writing samples.
- Attend the Graduate & Professional School Day: meet recruiters to get an advanced overview of graduate programs and application tips.
- Apply for graduate school fellowships with junior year deadlines.
- Save money for campus visits in the summer to your top choices.
- Finalize your graduate program picks and familiarize yourself with their application procedures, components and deadlines.
- Create a personalized application timeline and application activity sheet to track the application steps.
- Prepare for the GRE and take multiple practice tests.
- Take the GRE and, if required, the Subject Test.
- Collect your college transcripts: if you attended colleges other than UT Austin, be sure to compile all relevant files during the summer.
- Take plenty of time to consider your statement of purpose and writing sample: organize your thoughts, map out the structure and consider who you may ask to read your work.
- Complete an internship or work on a research project.
- Visit the campuses of your top program choices.
- Save money to help pay graduate school application fees.
Keep in mind: graduate school application deadlines generally fall between December and January. The majority of applications are received in the last three weeks prior to the deadline; help your application stand out by applying at least four weeks early.
- Craft your curriculum vitae (CV).
- Draft your statement of purpose and your writing sample: ask a professor for feedback.
- Ask your professors to write your letters of recommendation.
- Speak with the graduate coordinator or faculty graduate advisor in the programs to which you are applying: get advice and details not available on the department's website.
- Attend the Graduate & Professional School Day: network with graduate school recruiters from across the country.
- Apply for graduate school fellowships and scholarships.
- Submit your fall deadline applications.
- Submit your spring deadline applications.
- Follow up with universities that did not acknowledge receipt of your application to ensure all your materials were received.
- Apply for financial aid: you can apply as early as January 1st of the year in which you plan to enter a graduate school program. Don't wait until you've been accepted.
- If you are notified that you are on a waiting list, give the university new information to advance your case: improved GPA, new letter of recommendation or updated CV.
What do you do if you aren't admitted to your top choices?
- Apply to more schools, and apply early.
- Apply to more safe schools.
- Visit with admissions representatives to make your case and ask for guidance.
- Take additional classes to improve your GPA.
- Rewrite your statement of purpose and review your writing sample for improvements: get help from faculty.
- Gain relevant experience by working on a research project.
- Apply again in a few years, after you have gained professional experience.