If you’re reading this at some point before your junior year, here are some things you can be doing to prepare for graduate school:
- Take your coursework seriously – consider paring down your extracurricular involvement earlier, rather than later in order to be able to really do your best work in classes.
- Make the leap from high school to college. Stop thinking only about grades and start thinking about what you’re learning, why you’re learning, and how you’d like to apply what you’re learning to the rest of your life.
- Do your best work in classes: read the material deeply; ask questions as you read and in class.
- Start talking with professors about their research. Ask them questions about what you’re learning in class and make the leap to applying that material to the world around you. Be curious.
- Engage your academic advisors in conversations not only about classes and scheduling, but about your intellectual interests and passions – craft schedules each semester that challenge you to think.
- Read articles about current events, both newspaper and journal articles. Know what’s going on around you and decide for yourself what you think about events, policies, opinions, the global state of affairs, etc.
- If you are a freshman:Take College Writing seriously. If you are in the College of Arts & Sciences, submit a research paper for the Dean James E. McLeod Freshman Writing Prize.
- If you are a sophomore, find out about the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, the Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellowship Program, and the Office of Undergraduate Research and start developing your inner scholar!
- Look into national scholarships and fellowships now, so that you know what’s there, can seek advice, and prevent being surprised by important deadlines!
If you’re reading this as a first semester junior:
- Talk with a pre-graduate advisor about your coursework, relationships with professors and advisors, research experience, and study abroad experience).
- Assess what you’ve done – academic, work, and extracurricular experience – what you really like to do, and whether the path to graduate school will help you to reach your goals and aspirations.
- With a pre-graduate advisor, devise a tentative plan for the next two years to support your path to graduate school.
- Connect with a professor (at least one) in your field(s) of interest as soon as possible. A pre-graduate advisor can help you to do this.
- Plan on presenting a poster at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall or spring of this year or your senior year. Make an appointment to speak with someone in the Office of Undergraduate Research about other opportunities as well.
- Attend Fall Forward if you plan on studying abroad in the spring.
Spring Semester, on campus – Junior Year.
- Connect with faculty regularly. Engage in more serious conversations about your academic path. Elicit more specific advice.
- Apply for summer funding through the Office of Undergraduate Research (deadlines are early, look into this at the beginning of the spring semester!)
- Declare your intent to write a senior thesis in your major department.
- Start compiling a list of possible programs. Begin looking at these programs more closely.
- Find out about scholars at other institutions who are doing research that is interesting to you. Read their work.
- Find out about conferences in your field. Plan on attending one either this semester, during the summer, or during the fall semester of your senior year.
- Start finding out about the GRE
- Attend Junior Jumpstart in May.
Spring Semester, abroad – Junior Year
- Before going abroad:
- Meet with your major and four-year advisors
- Attend Fall Forward
- Check in with a pre-graduate advisor
- Look for pre-graduate and study abroad pre-departure workshops
- Stay in touch with both your major and four-year advisors. Remember to get authorized to register for fall semester classes, and to declare your intent to write a senior thesis if applicable.
- Record your day-to-day experiences in a journal or blog. Record everything, even those cultural experiences that are confusing, frustrating, and uncomfortable.
- Begin to process these experiences while abroad.. Continue processing when your return. Look for pre-graduate and study abroad workshops aimed at helping you to do this.
- When you return to campus: Make sure to meet with a pre-graduate or study abroad advisor, as well as your major and four-year advisors.
Summer following Junior Year
- Register for and prepare to take the GRE General Test
- Contact faculty about letters of recommendation.
- Contact scholars of interest at other universities. Seek advice from your major advisor or a pre-graduate advisor before sending an email.
- Begin writing your Statement of Purpose. Get feedback from faculty, pre-graduate advisors, The Writing Center, etc.
- Make sure you know about outside sources of funding
- Firm up your list of schools and programs and understand what will be required of you during the application process. Reach out to advisors and mentors with questions.
- Make sure you have spoken about recommendations with faculty members and advisors
- Be working regularly on your Statement of Purpose – remember, feedback is critical.
- Develop a personal timeline for the application process, if you haven’t already.
- Register for the GRE if haven’t done so already
- Take the GRE
- Finalize your list of schools to which you plan to apply, and request application materials
- Reach out to faculty and current students of programs to which you wish to apply.
- Request letters of recommendation from faculty members and others as previously agreed upon.
- Finish your personal application time-line based on each institution’s application and financial aid timelines.
- Have a completed draft of your statement of purpose.
- Order transcripts from all colleges attended. Make sure that your first-semester senior grades will be included.
- Give all recommenders the information they will need to write letters.
- Work on your applications
- Finish your Statement of Purpose, adjusting it to meet each application’s specific requirements and needs.
- Submit all completed applications.
- Check in with all recommenders to make sure that they are aware of your deadlines.
- Visit schools.
- Visit schools.
- If you are applying for need-based financial aid, you may have to file a copy of your federal income tax return in order to complete a FAFSA form for the Federal Government.
**Make sure to be checking in with an advisor or mentor at each stage of this process, especially if you have more than one offer!
**Make sure to thank everyone who helps you during this process and let them know your final decision! This is rarely done and always remembered!