Graduate School Application Timeline

Exploring and applying to graduate school can have many moving parts. Here is a timeline for important information-gathering and decision-making landmarks to be aware of throughout the process.

Two Years Prior to Application Year: 

  • Explore Graduate School.
  • Begin researching schools. Consider programs, faculty research, and locations of interest.
  • Plan for cost of applying. Determine application and standardized test fees, the cost of study materials, and funds that may be needed for future campus visits.

One Year Prior to Application Year:

  • Begin or continue researching programs.
  • Begin researching scholarships and fellowships to help you pay for school.
  • Get federal and institutional financial aid information.
  • Sign up for and begin reviewing for standardized tests.
  • Attend related events offered by CAPD and graduate school information sessions.

Application Year:


  • Check to see if applications have posted on program websites.


  • Develop your personal timeline for applying. Know the deadlines!
  • Request letters of recommendation.
  • Prepare your resume. Have it reviewed by a CAPD advisor.
  • Begin or continue to collect information about national and school-based fellowship programs, and their required application materials.


  • Take the standardized test required for your program if you haven't already.
  • Write your statement of purpose and have it reviewed at CAPD, the Writing and Communication Center, or at a communication lab.
  • Request official transcripts.
  • Complete financial aid and scholarship forms.
  • Think about alternatives to graduate school.


  • Finalize and submit all application materials.
  • Contact your recommenders and kindly remind them of the deadlines for your application.
  • Follow-up and make sure that each school has received your application materials and that it is complete.

Interviews and Post-Application Period:


  • Prepare for any interviews you may have. Arrange a CAPD mock interview for practice.
  • Complete and submit your financial aid forms (both federal and institutional).
  • Arrange to visit each school you have been admitted to, if you can. If you can’t visit in person, set up informational interviews with current students or recent alumni to learn more about the program and decide if it’s a fit for you. 


  • Figure out your financial situation. This will help you decide where you will go to school.
  • Accept and decline offers in writing and/or by phone as soon as you have made a decision.
  • Write a note to your recommenders, thanking them and letting them know where you will be next year!


  • Take some time off to relax and recharge. Spend time with friends and loved ones and do activities that you enjoy.
  • Prepare for the start of your new graduate program by taking care of any personal tasks before starting school – schedule medical appointments, search for apartments and move, come up with a budget, create a sample schedule that allows time for school and personal needs like sleep, exercise, healthy meals, and study breaks.