Your Grad School Application Checklist

Deadlines

Keep track of them! Wherever you're organizing your application materials, you should have the program deadlines front and center. Write them on post-its, doodle them in your notebooks, get them tattooed on your body somewhere highly visible. 

Online Application

Many schools have their own portals for applications. Unlike high school, there isn't one Common App for all of the schools. Although the applications themselves aren't especially difficult, it can get a little repetitive to fill in the same answers over and over again. The largest section I've had to fill in so far has been work experience and a list of awards. To help these go smoother, you can keep a document with all of these in it and just copy them as needed. 

Personal Statements

Although each school will have different requirements for their personal statements, you can reuse the majority of the essay. As long as you're applying to similar programs, your background, related experience, and interest will overlap. Each essay should have a tailored section that focuses on that specific school. Why do you HAVE to study there? What do you like about the program? What faculty members do you want to work with? Anything specific that can connect you to the program will help your case. 

 

Transcripts

This bit can get pricey. For some reason, you have to pay your school to send your grades to another school. You even have to pay them in order to get a copy for yourself. Most schools seem to allow you to upload a scanned version of your transcripts and you don't have to send official transcripts until you get accepted. Some schools still require you to mail them so make sure you stay on top of it!

CV

CVs are mystical and elusive. I've found that most people have no idea how to write them, including the incredibly smart professors I've asked about it. In general, people explain them as longer resumes that focus on your academic experience. CVs also should look different depending on your major/program you're applying to. Check out a writing center or career advancement center on your campus for help with your CV. 

Letters of Rec

Since this aspect of your application relies the most on other people, it's the most risky. You should choose professors you know well and who can advocate for your participation in the program. Let them know at least two weeks in advance and send them copies of your CV and essays. In your request, include a deadline for their submission and send reminders as needed. If you're applying to a lot of schools, like I am, you should ask your professors for their preference: would they rather have the letter requests sent incrementally or all at once? 

Application Fees

The absolute worst part of applying to grad school is the application fee. Each school asks for anywhere from $50 to $120. As you can imagine, that really adds up. Most schools offer fee waivers, but not everyone qualifies for them. Check with your department and see if there are any funds available for applying to grad schools. You might be surprised!