Most applications consist of six parts:
- Application form
- Personal statement/autobiography/essays
- Transcripts of all past academic work
- Letters of recommendation
- Test scores (GRE, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, etc.) Test application bulletins for most such tests are available in the Career Planning Office.
- Financial aid forms
Many schools have application deadlines well in advance of the entrance date. Be sure to check the particular departments to which you are applying for their deadlines. You also need to be aware that financial aid deadlines are often different (and sometimes earlier) from the regular application dates. Be sure to register for the appropriate test well in advance of when the schools need your scores. Begin to apply early. It often takes more time than you count on to complete all of the forms and to get the letters of recommendation and transcripts sent.
In completing the application form and personal statement, make sure you type it or print neatly and that it is written in clear and concise language. It should state who you are, your goals, and why you want to attend that particular school. For many schools, the written essay plays an extremely important role in their candidate selection. Have someone read it over and check for clarity and proper grammar. Most graduate/professional schools will want two or three letters of reference. Some schools may simply ask that you supply names and addresses; others will provide you with forms that you must give to letter writers, and still others will request letters but have no specified form. Check with your letter writers to see if they are willing to submit individual letters for you. To facilitate the letter writing of the people from whom you have asked for references, you should:
- Provide them with information about you (interest, classes you have taken, activities you have been involved in) and why you want to attend graduate/professional school.
- Include information about the particular graduate/professional school(s) that you are considering.
- Indicate the date by which you need the letter sent out. Make sure to give them at least three to four weeks before the deadline. Check back with them to make sure the letters have been sent.
- Give the writers pre-addressed, stamped envelopes.
- Send a thank-you note to those who have recommended you.
Additional suggestions are included suggestions are included in the informational handout entitled "References/Letters of Recommendation," which is available in the Career Services.
If you are applying to more than one school, it is important to keep track of when you completed each one.
It is important to start early in order to complete your applications on time. Most people should start applying a full year and a half before their anticipated date of matriculation. Application deadlines may range from August (before your senior year) for early decision programs of medical schools using the American Medical College Application Service to late spring or summer (after your senior year) for a few programs with rolling admissions. The majority of deadlines for the fall’s entering class are between January and March. Many schools with rolling admissions encourage and act upon early applications. Once their predetermined enrollment number is met, they will place all other applicants on a waiting list, even if they are more qualified. You should apply as early as possible to schools with a rolling admission; early applicants are not rejected unless they are clearly below the institution’s standards. Following is a timetable that represents the ideal for most students. Review this list to see if you are on track.
Junior Year – Fall and Spring
- Research areas of interest, institutions, and programs.
- Talk to advisors about application requirements.
- Register and prepare for appropriate graduate/professional school admission tests.
- Investigate national scholarships.
- If appropriate, obtain letters of recommendation.
Junior Year – Summer
- Take required admission tests.
- Write for application materials.
- Visit institutions of interest, if possible.
- Write your application essay.
- Check on application deadlines and rolling admissions policies.
- For medical, dental, osteopathy, podiatry, or law school, you may need to register for the national application or data assembly service most programs use.
Senior Year – Fall
- Obtain letters of recommendation.
- Take graduate/professional school admission tests, if you haven’t already.
- Send in completed applications.
- Register for Graduate and Professional School Financial Aid Service (GAPSFAS), if required.
Senior Year – Spring
- Check with all institutions before the deadline to make sure your file is complete.
- Visit institutions that accept you.
- Send a deposit to your institution of choice.
- Notify other schools that accepted you of your decision so that they may admit students on their waiting list.
- Send thank-you notes to people who wrote your recommendation letters, informing them of your success.