The application process can be lengthy and can take close to a year to complete. No two applications are the same and each school will likely want your materials to be organized in a specific way. The key is preparation and organization.

Although you should develop your own system and timeline for the application process, below you will find a timeline to get you started.


  • Write a draft statement of purpose/personal statement.
  • Develop your resume. Work with staff at the Career Center to develop your resume by scheduling an appoitnment in Handshake.
  • Start browsing through guides to graduate programs, websites, and college catalogs.


  • Meet with faculty members that you know to discuss your personal statement and learn about possible programs.
  • Ask a faculty member in your discipline if they would be willing to write a strong letter of recommendation.
  • Start your personal timeline for the application process.
  • Sign up for required standardized tests. Study and practice for the required standardized exam.


  • Take standardized tests early enough to have scores available before application deadlines.
  • Determine which schools you plan to apply to, and request application materials.
  • Finish your timeline based on each institution’s deadline and financial aid deadlines.
  • Complete your personal statement, adjusting it to meet each application’s specific needs.
  • Order transcripts from all post-secondary institutions. If fall term grades are expected, then check with staff in the registrar’s office to see if a transcript including fall term grades can be sent in time to meet graduate program deadlines.
  • Explore and apply for fellowships and scholarships.


  • Complete application forms. Be sure to type and proofread all documents that will be submitted.
  • Supply recommenders with your personal statement, resumé, and a summary of the specific programs where you will apply. The more informed they are about your intentions, the better they can target your letters.


  • Submit applications. Even if deadlines are later, it is good to get the applications in early.


  • Contact programs about the possibility of visiting. Make trips if possible.


  • If you are applying for need-based financial aid programs, you may be required to file a copy of your federal income tax return.
  • Send thank you letters to those who served as your recommenders and let them know the outcome of your applications.

Timeline adapted from: Council of Graduate Schools, Graduate School and You: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students, Washington, DC: 2004. Used with permission.