Develop a Timeline to Help You Stay on Track

The following timeline (modified from the University of California publication, Continue the Journey) will help you stay on track while applying to graduate school and in ensure that you are doing all that you need to do to prepare:

Freshman Year (Self-Discovery)

  • Talk to and visit your academic and career counselor. Career Services has assessments to help you explore your interests and abilities.
  • Develop long term study habits and skills.
  • Explore campus resources available to students (e.g. tutoring services, writing centers) and get involved on campus.

Sophomore Year (Assessing Options)

  • Establish some personal, life, and career goals. These may change over time as you do more research and live life. If you need help figuring these out, please talk to a career counselor or academic advisor.
  • Begin to make contacts in your chosen career area.
  • Identify potential mentoring relationships with professors or graduate students.
  • Conduct independent research with a professor of your choice. You can often volunteer to help a professor that studies something of interest to you.
  • Attend graduate and professional school fairs to gather materials and speak to graduate admissions representatives.
  • Begin web searches on summer research internships and co-ops at various universities. Visit the Career Center at your university for more details.

Junior Year (Setting Your Goals)

  • Strengthen your mentoring relationships. Discuss your interests with faculty and advisors.
  • Research appropriate graduate programs. Contact the department(s) to which you are applying or visit their website for catalogues and publications. Visit campuses and departments when possible.
  • Investigate appropriate entrance exam dates and fees. If possible, take the exam.
  • Attend graduate and professional school fairs.
  • Participate in a summer research internship, and/or work with faculty on a research project during the academic year.
  • Maintain contact with faculty in whose courses you have done well. Visit them during office hours, or schedule an appointment to discuss applying to graduate school.

Senior Year (Making a choice)

  • Register by the beginning of the semester to take the appropriate entrance exam. If you are eligible for financial aid, Fresno State may be able to grant you a GRE Fee Reduction Certificate. Visit the financial aid office to inquire about this.
  • Continue to research graduate programs and discuss with mentors, family, significant others, etc.
  • Request financial aid information. Check the deadlines on these requests because some schools have very early cut off dates.
  • Talk to your potential references about writing you a letter of recommendations – you need to allow them plenty of time to write a good letter.
  • Apply early!! Most universities offer electronic applications. Confirm application deadlines.
  • Apply to a number of schools. This will take time and organization. Expect the application process to take as much time as one regular course.
  • Research application fees and fee waiver options for the individual schools. Complete the application process (letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, transcripts).
  • Contact the schools to ensure that your application is complete.

After Applying

  • Complete the FAFSA form for financial aid
  • Follow up on the status of your application.
  • Visit prospective campuses.
  • Talk to current students about their experiences.
  • Write thank-you notes to people who helped you apply.

Graduates/ Taking a Year Off (or more)

  • If you have taken time off, consider taking a course in your field or doing volunteer research to help you prepare.
  • Stay in touch with your references. Work with your recommenders to develop up-to-date letters of reference (don’t send out-of-date ones).
  • In your personal statement, be sure to indicate what you’ve learned since you left the university.