Timetable for Graduate School Admissions
This timetable assumes you will be starting graduate school in the fall after your senior year. It also assumes December and January deadlines, which is typical for Ph.D. programs. Many Master's programs have later application deadlines. Make sure you find out the deadlines for programs to which you are applying.
Freshman year and beyond:
- Succeed in College Algebra and Freshman English--this content will be covered on the GRE
- Make good grades and keep up your GPA--graduate schools expect As and Bs (but mostly As)
- Begin getting to know your professors (they will be writing your letters of recommendation)
Sophomore year and beyond:
- Join Psi Chi (students become eligible during the 2nd semester of their sophomore year)
- Begin building a record of volunteer/job experience related to psychology
- Begin building a record of research involvement (this is essential for Ph.D. applicants)
- Begin attending conferences and other professional meetings
- Write (and keep up-to-date) a vita to document your activities
Late junior year/summer before senior year:
- Take practice GRE tests and begin reviewing verbal and quantitative skills
- Begin identifying programs that match with your interests, goals, etc. (most of this info is online)
- Save money for the application process (application fees, GRE fees, travel money for interviews)
- Take the GRE General Exam in the summer, which will allow time for a 2nd chance if you are not happy with your score
- Take the GRE Psychology Exam if it is required by programs you wish to attend
Early/mid fall of your senior year:
- Make final decisions about where you will apply
- Confirm the application deadlines for all schools (doctoral programs generally have late fall deadlines; master's programs generally have early spring deadlines)
- Acquire application and financial aid forms for all schools at least a couple of months before the deadline
- Make final decisions about where you will apply. I recommend that you create a spreadsheet of info about each program, with all requirements listed, due dates, and a way to keep track of whether you have done each thing yet.
- Put together packets of information for those writing letters of recommendation. It is inconsiderate to give forms to teachers one at a time, scattered throughout the semester, and expect them to keep track of everything. Your professionalism and attention to detail can get you better letters! You should:
- Give them a complete list of each school that you want them to write a letter for. This list should tell them (1) what type of program it is (e.g., a research oriented counseling program), (2) the due date for their letter, (3) how to provide the letter to each grad program (online link, mail to x address, give to you, etc.), and (4) any special instructions from the graduate program (e.g., seal and sign the back, send more than one copy of the letter, etc.). This will ensure that everything arrives on time with minimal frustration.
- Provide them with any relevant forms they need to fill out. Make sure you put your name on them and fill out everything on the form that is on the student's part (your name, SSN, program name, signature, etc.). This will ensure that your application is filled out correctly and your letter-writers aren't doing your portion AND theirs.
- Provide a copy of your vita and any relevant info about you that you'd like them to remember and include (e.g., I was in x class in Spring 2013, I made an A, I was in your research team in Fall 2012 and did x for the group, etc.). This will help us formulate a good letter with detailed info that we might've forgotten.
November/December of your senior year for doctoral programs; January/February for master's programs:
- Ask faculty for letters of recommendations at least a month in advance
- Request that GRE scores be sent to all schools to which you are applying at least a month in advance
- Request that undergraduate transcripts be sent to all schools to which you are applying, at least a month in advance
- Write statement of purpose or other essays required by the schools (allow time for revisions)
- Send in financial aid forms
- Send in application forms
Spring of senior year:
- Call schools to confirm that your completed applications and recommendation letters were received.
- Attend any interviews to which you are invited
- Accept/decline offers.
- After accepting an offer, start working out all the details (registering, paying bills, moving, etc.)
Written by Shanna D. Ray, Department of Psychology, Lipscomb University
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