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Overview: Planning Timeline

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This section provides information on when you need to start preparing your graduate school application(s). Please note, these resources focus on applying to graduate studies programs in the United States. The information contained in these resources may or may not be appropriate to other contexts. It also provides a list of dates to keep in mind as you are going through the application process.


When applying to a graduate program you will have to assemble, request, and prepare several elements, many of which are time-sensitive. Graduate programs are strict about application deadlines. Most do not allow extensions; and, even if you are granted extra time, the request may make you look unprofessional and disorganized.

In general, most programs start accepting applications in November with a January deadline. However, you shouldn’t count on this. Each individual program may have their own set of admission deadlines, which may be different than the deadlines for the school/college of graduate study. Also, keep in mind that even though graduate programs traditionally start in the fall, some programs have two or three start dates; while others have rolling admission--all of which will affect application deadlines.

The timeline below is based on a traditional fall start date. Adjust dates accordingly if you are applying for admission in the spring or summer.

  • Early Summer
    • Begin researching programs.
    • Sign up for the necessary standardized test for your field.
    • Take practice diagnostic tests to see how close you are to program testing score requirements.
    • Study for required tests.
  • Late Summer
    • Take standardized test, likely the GRE, leaving plenty of time to retake the test if needed.
    • Seek advice and information from faculty members, admissions counselors, and peers.
  • September-October
    • Research funding and start applying for fellowships, internships, and assistantships.
    • Start drafting your personal statement, CV, and, if needed, writing sample.
    • Carefully mark the due dates for each school to which you plan to apply.
  • November-December
    • Order transcripts to be sent to each program for which you are applying.
    • Finalize your personal statement, CV, and any other required materials.
    • Fill out applications.
    • Request letters of recommendation at least one month before they are due.
  • January-February
    • Submit all materials by the published due date.
    • If confirmation email(s) is not forthcoming, call the program office before the deadline to make sure your materials have been received.
    • Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
    • Prepare for possible phone or campus interviews.