You are here

Timeline for Graduate School

Timeline for Graduate School

First and Second Year

  • Use your courses (both in the major and Foundational Studies) to explore different fields for areas of interest and aptitude.
  • Do well. It’s easier to point a consistent record of success than explain drastic improvements or gaps in your record.  
  • Develop relationships with faculty, advisors, and other members of the ISU community. They will be best situated to help direct you to different fields of endeavor. They will also be likely to write your letters of recommendation.
  • If you can, pursue internships, student research, and other such opportunities to develop the experiences that will prepare you both for graduate school and your broader career
  • Keep track of your successes and experiences. Keep papers and other work as samples that can be in a portfolio for your eventual application.

Junior Year (Fall)

  • Keep up the good work.  Your GPA will be one element considered by most schools to which you apply will consider.
  • Continue to cultivate your relationships with professors and advisors. This would also be a good time to start talking to professors about graduate school in a very broad sense.
  • Start thinking about your future more concretely.
  • Begin discussing graduate school possibilities with faculty, advisors, or staff at the Career Center.
  • Start researching potential schools based upon discussions with faculty, review of program websites, and review of those programs’ offerings.
  • Start thinking about the costs of graduate school. Some types of graduate school will offer assistantships, others will require financing (loans, etc.).  Think about how much you can or should spend for your future career.

Junior Year (Spring)

  • Keep up the good work.  No need to disrupt that record of success.
  • Continue to cultivate your relationships with professors and advisors.  Start to talk to them about specific programs that you should look at.
  • Start mapping out the timelines for applications for the following year. What are the key dates?
  • Start planning out which (if any) standardized exams to take. For professional schools (medical, law, business), you’ll likely be taking the MCAT, GMAT, or LSAT. For other programs, you may need the GREs. Check with the programs you are interested in to be certain.
  • Prep for the exam! Most of these exams have samples on their websites. Take a practice version to see if you need to do further preparations.
  • Plan to take the exam for real.

Junior-Senior Summer

  • Double check application dates and firm up your application schedule. Leave plenty of time for revisions and other hiccups along the way.
  • Prep for the standardized tests. If you are ready, and its possible, consider taking the tests so that you can focus on coursework, applications, and other obligations during the fall semester.
  • Narrow down the range of schools to which you want to apply.
  • Start working on your application materials (essays, etc.). If possible, share these with advisors and/or your recommenders. You’ll want the opportunity to complete multiple drafts.
  • If you have time and means, visit campuses of your targeted programs. At a minimum, do a little research on what life is like in location of your intended program (as well as issues like costs of living).

Senior Year (Fall)

  • Early in the semester, confirm all writers of letters of recommendation. (see section on requesting letters of recommendation).
  • Put together your application packets. Be sure to show your essays to advisors and faculty to get constructive feedback.
  • Order transcripts as needed.
  • Send off or submit your application materials
  • Send thank you notes to all letter writers (preferably before the final application deadlines)

Senior Year (Spring)

  • Continue to work hard. Why ruin your great record with senioritis at this point?
  • Contact the institutions where you applied. Make sure that your application packet is complete and ask about the application status.
  • Stay calm. Some applications may take weeks, or even several months, to process.
  • If the application process includes an interview, discuss the interview process with your advisors. You can also sign up for a mock interview at the career center.
  • Let your references know where the application process stands. This is also a great time to send follow up thank you notes, especially once you get accepted.
  • Explore all your offers. Make sure that you inform both your future graduate program and all rejected programs of your decision. Or, to put it another way, keep it classy!

Enjoy graduation and good luck in graduate school!