The timeline below is just a sample, meant to give an overview of what’s involved in applying to graduate school. Every graduate program is different, and some have rolling admission (where applications are reviewed as they arrive), while others have deadlines in the winter (December through March) for Fall semester admission.

In addition to the steps described below, check out our Grad School video series on YouTube for more advice on applying to graduate school. 

To talk more about how to fit these steps into your own timeline, consider meeting with a career counselor.

Sophomore/Junior Year
  • Explore career options to determine if graduate school would help you meet your career goals.
  • Begin talking to your Major Advisor or a career counselor about your thoughts on graduate school. Explore programs to consider, and identify experiences to seek out or undergraduate courses to take which might strengthen your application
  • Discuss your interest in graduate school with faculty connected to your field of interest. They can provide insight, personal experiences, and points of contact.
  • Begin researching possible programs by attending Graduate School Fairs, looking into programs that others have recommended, and using graduate program search engines like those provided by Petersons.
Junior Year: Fall and Spring Semesters
  • Attend the Graduate & Professional School Fair to collect information on schools and ask questions of program representatives (Fall).
  • Review materials from schools you are considering to determine which you are most interested in, and how many you will apply to.
  • Research the application requirements and submission deadlines. If requested, submit a resume or CV to the program.
  • Become familiar with entrance test requirements for your graduate program.
  • Begin preparing with practice questions (the GRE, LSAT, GMAT, and other tests make free practice questions available) or by taking a full practice test.;
  • Request additional information (promotional packets, brochures, etc.) from programs that interest you to supplement what you’re learning through their websites.
  • Register for any required entrance tests (GRE, MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, etc.) that you need to take this summer.
  • Research financial aid options, including deadlines.
Junior Year: Summer
  • Take required admissions tests 
  • If you’re not pleased with your score, investigate online resources for doing more preparation on your own or consider taking a test preparation course through JMU (GRE, GMAT, and LSAT test prep courses are available) or Kaplan
  • Identify recommenders and request letters of reference 
    • Identify the number and types of references needed (for instance, some require a form, while others require a letter), and talk with your potential references before listing them on your application. 
    • Provide your references with materials that will help them write recommendations for you or complete online reference forms. These materials can include your personal statement, a resume, brief descriptions of each program you’re applying to, and deadlines for each school. 
  • Visit institutions of interest, if possible.
  • Begin drafting application essays 
  • Investigate financial assistance like assistantships, fellowships, or financial aid options; complete necessary application procedures for these funding sources. 
Senior Year: Early Fall Semester
  • Take required admissions tests (if not already taken).
  • Consider attending one of our Graduate School Workshops (see Handshake for dates). 
  • Attend the Graduate & Professional School Fair to collect information on schools and ask questions of program representatives.
  • Write a first draft of your application essay or personal statement. Ask for feedback from faculty, your advisor, or the University Writing Center to help you make revisions.
  • Monitor progress of reference letter writers.
  • Complete a Transcript Request Form and submit it to the Registrar’s Office. Request that the transcript be held until Fall semester grades are posted.
  • Begin drafting application, including further drafts of application essays.
  • Continue applying for financial aid.
Senior Year: Late Fall Semester
  • Complete all materials needed for programs you are submitting applications to.
  • Submit your application materials in the requested format (mail or online).
  • Verify that recommendations have been sent.
  • Keep records of your application process for each school, noting date submitted, confirmation received, and any follow-up that’s necessary.
Senior Year: Early Spring Semester
  • Continue to apply for financial aid, follow up on your options for funding (private loans, grants, assistantships, fellowships, etc.).
  • Some programs include interviews as part of the admissions process, and these are often conducted in the Spring (but check with the programs you are applying to for specific dates and details). Prepare yourself for interviews by considering ways to articulate why you are interested in each program, questions you are interested in asking, and ways to practice interviewing. If you do interview, don't forget to send thank you notes afterwards!
Senior Year: Late Spring Semester
  • Keep track of your acceptances and rejections as they come in. Discuss your options, decisions or concerns with your advisor, faculty mentors, or a career counselor.
  • Send correspondence to the program you accept admission to, and to any offers you are declining.
  • Look into other loans or appeal the aid package if the amount the school is offering doesn't meet your needs.
  • Complete another Transcript Request Form and ask the JMU Registrar to hold the request until Spring semester grades are posted.
  • Send thank you notes to reference letter writers and others who helped you in your search, notifying them of your decision.

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