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6 Steps to Organize Yourself for Grad School

It’s time! If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re either thinking about going to grad school or you’re already set on attending. You probably don’t know where to start! I completely understand. The process is stressful as heck! It can be so overwhelming. You can get paralyzed and end up procrastinating. I’m here to guide you through some simple steps that will help you clear your mind. They’ll make you feel like you still have control over the situation. Hopefully, in the end, you’ll be taking the next step towards your future!


Separate a Day to Get Things Started.

The hardest part of starting your journey to grad school is actually starting. You need to separate time to work on the task at bay. One of the things that are probably holding you back from this process, is that you just can’t seem to find the time. You probably keep putting off the act of sitting down and thinking about your future. For this, I suggest looking at your calendar and picking a date when you’re not that busy. Having a date in which you know that you’re going to sit down and focus on your grad school to-do list (be it applying, moving, emailing administrators and professors, or applying for grants) will help ease your anxiety about starting.

Make a List.

Lists! Oh, I love making lists. They make me feel organized and like I actually have my life put together. I think making lists through every step of the process is important. Before you even start applying for programs, sit down and ask yourself key questions:

  • Do you like research and investigation more?
  • Do you enjoy theory more than practical environments?
  • What are your academic interests?
  • What type of profession do you think you’ll enjoy most?
  • Will any of the programs you have in mind help achieve that profession?

You should also list all the interests you’ve figured out during your Bachelor’s. This will help focus on which programs might be the best fit for you. You should make lists about: grad school requirements (more on that later!), moving requirements, and budgeting. Moving requirements and budgeting are extremely important. You need to keep track of what your resources are before even starting to apply. If you’re thinking about international schools or programs, you should be aware of the monetary cost.


Now that you have a list, it’s time to research! Start your search broadly and then slowly narrow it down. On the search bar, mix the interests you wrote down on your list with the area of focus you’re thinking of doing. This will provide you with general results of universities and colleges providing programs that align with what you’re looking for.

Read all that interest you and pick out those that call for you the most. Write them down on another piece of paper or on your computer. Now you have actual places you’re considering. To keep yourself organized through this process, pin the websites of the universities or programs to your taskbar. This helped me keep track of the requisites and keep the deadlines fresh in my mind. It also helps to revisit the website and not lose important information that the universities are constantly posting. In the end, I was able to keep track of the universities and programs I was interested in by pinning them and discard the ones that didn’t meet my criteria (a reason why making those lists is so important)!

Write Down the Requisites. 

This step still falls under the research category, but it’s so extensive, it deserves its own spot. Now that you have programs you’re interested in, you need to verify their requisites and, most importantly, their deadlines. Scary word, I know. Make sure you’re all set to apply for this program, most usually demand an application fee and a large bundle of documents. If you’re an international student and you’re interested in attending a school in the States, you need to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or provide any other certification proving you are proficient in English.

Get Moving.

Start working towards organizing yourself to have all the documents you need before the deadline to apply. Have in mind those professors that you know would write recommendation letters for you, as well as getting your transcripts on time. This step is so you feel productive and get in the headspace of choosing your future. It might be stressful and overwhelming having to keep track of all the deadlines and paperwork, but the result will be worth it. Once you have all your documents, submit!

I’d also suggest making your email notifications visible if you haven’t already so that when that email arrives (whether it is to accept you or demand further information) you can be ready for whatever and have time to respond efficiently. Then there’s not much to do except wait and keep yourself calm (see next step).

Take Time for Yourself. 

Now that you’ve officially applied, you can start working on yourself. By this time, you’ll be stressed, so feel free to sit back, relax, and enjoy. You’ll start to feel anxious about getting a response back and that isn’t healthy. Because of this, you need to focus on your present and keep doing the things you’d normally enjoy to keep yourself occupied. Regardless of whether or not you’re accepted, remember that it doesn’t reflect on your value as a student and, more importantly, as a human.

There you have it, folks! These are the steps I’d recommend to guide you through the stressful process of looking and later applying for grad school. You don’t have to follow them all through, they’re just a baseline to get you started. I’m sure that in the end, you know what works best for you and your process. Good luck!

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