Timeline for Applying to Graduate School

Follow our graduate school application timeline to best prepare for continuing your education.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

September 28, 2022

Timeline for Applying to Graduate School
Balance your senior year and the graduate school application process.
Senior year of college – time to kick back, let loose and coast to graduation. Unless you plan to go to graduate school after college. In that case, you have quite a bit of work to do. Most of the grunt work in applying to graduate school occurs during the fall semester, but you should expect to be working on your graduate school applications right along with your senior thesis. It will take a lot of time, but by working within an application timeline, you can ease the burden and stress of applying to grad school and finishing your senior year. With the help of this useful advice listed on College Cures, we added our own to create this timeline. Get started on your graduate school applications today!


In addition to starting the school year strong, you need to give a lot of thought as to what you plan to study after graduation and where. Once you’ve compiled a list of fields and potential schools, you need to research what exactly is required for your application into each particular field or school. For instance, do you need to take the GRE or the GMAT? Do you have ambitions to pursue a Master’s or a Ph.D.? It’s also time to start prepping for those graduate school exams once you’ve decided what to pursue. Like the time you studied for the SAT and ACT, each graduate school exam can be prepared for with test prep books and practice exams that can be found online or in your campus bookstore.


Meet with professionals in the field you’re interested in or arrange for a job shadow sometime over fall break. At this point, you not only need to be establishing relationships for the purpose of letters of recommendation but also to verify that this is the path you want to take after graduation. Graduate school isn’t as experimental as the first few years of college. You need to be firm on your academic and career aspirations. Secondly, you should also be meeting with your professors and career center personnel to prep for applications. They can help with your applications, essays and graduate school interview prep.
Again, these are individuals who can provide you with letters of recommendation but they can also deliver keen insights into the graduate school application process. After all, they’ve helped countless students do the same year after year.


Devote the first one or two weeks in October to taking your graduate school exams. If possible, schedule them during your fall break or on the weekend so you don’t have to worry about missing class or balancing grad school exam time with writing a paper. Taking your tests at this point in the semester also enables you to submit your complete graduate school application sooner. At this time, you also need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as the FAFSA. Filling out an application will enable you to qualify for financial aid as well as federally funded student loans. There are many grants and other financial aid opportunities, like the PLUS Loan, specifically for graduate students. It's important to fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1. Many states and institutions divvy out financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. You want to be sure you get a financial aid package that will make attending graduate school possible


Most graduate school deadlines fall from October 31 to December 1, according to College Cures. Take the last few weeks of October and the first few weeks of November to compile and finalize your graduate school applications. In most cases, you’ll need to provide an application, transcript, letters of recommendation, resume and examples of your work. Your test scores can be sent directly from the test administrators, but you’ll need to confirm with each school that they received them before the application deadline.


College Cures states that many schools allow applicants to make any changes to their application or submit components that they may have forgotten at this time. Again, it doesn’t hurt to touch base with the admissions offices at each school you’re applying to in order to confirm that they received your entire application.

January – March

If you haven’t complete the FAFSA yet, now is the time to do it. It’s also a great time to start searching for graduate school scholarships. Do the work now to ensure you’re paying as little as possible for your graduate school education. Finally, reach out to the institutions that you applied to and see if they have any grants or graduate school scholarships specific to your area of study. After all, any amount that is awarded to you is less student loan debt you will have to repay after graduation. However, if you do need to borrow money to pay for your graduate education, here are the best graduate student loans.

March – June

At this point, you’ll begin hearing back from graduate schools regarding whether or not you’ve been accepted. With that, you’ll have the big picture – where you’ve been accepted, how much in scholarship dollars you can count on as well as how much you’ll need to borrow to make your graduate school dreams a reality. Now, all you need to do is make a decision. Once that’s complete, you can begin to kick back, toast to your friends and future and begin cruising to graduation.

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