Preparing for Graduate School

Timeline for Preparation

*This timeline is centered on students planning to enter graduate programs after graduation. If you are taking time off or are returning to school, you can still follow this same outline to keep you on track!

Junior Year, Spring

The spring semester in your junior year is an ideal time to begin to research and plan for graduate school if you intend to enroll the fall after graduation. This timing allows you to gather as much information as possible and prepare quality application materials. Research programs and schools in which you are interested and make a list of your desired schools so that you can prioritize the ones that are of highest interest. While you can choose however many schools to which you want to apply, remember that there are application fees for each so also be discerning about which schools will fit your interests.

Senior Year, Fall

During the fall of your senior year you will be busy with schoolwork and enjoying your final semesters at Saint Mary’s. However, most graduate school applications are due either late in the fall semester or very early in the spring so this fall semester is when you need to be concentrating on taking your entrance exams, developing an exceptional personal statement, and completing your other application requirements. You should notify anyone you are intending to ask for a “Letter of Recommendation” early in the semester so that they too can prepare a quality reference for you. Let them know the date by which you need to receive their letter to send with the rest of your application materials. If the due date for your program is during the spring, you should attempt to have most of your materials prepared by the time you return in January as the last semester of your college years will be very busy.

Senior Year, Spring

If your application materials were not due already, this is the semester they will be due. Your first priority should be sending your application in on time if not earlier. DO NOT be late sending in any portion of your application including your letters of recommendation. Once your application has been submitted, you will want to ensure you do not have any other obligations. Some programs desire for candidates to visit the campus and have an interview. Some programs will need you to secure an assistantship of some kind before offering admission. Make sure that you have met ALL the requirements outside of the processed application. If you have any questions regarding the process, contact the program chair or director as they will be able to best answer your inquiries.

Post-Graduation, Summer

CONGRATS! Hopefully all of your hard work has paid off and by now you have been accepted into the program of your choice. Now is the time to prepare to move to your new city. If graduate school did not work out this year, you can always apply in the years to come. Evaluate your application, have someone else evaluate your application. Are there changes you could make or experiences you could have that would make you a better candidate for the next round? Do not give up simply because this year graduate school did not work out. You are always welcome back in the Career Crossings Office for help on the next round!


Letters of Recommendation

Most programs will ask for three (3) letters of recommendation. The task of choosing your recommenders can sometimes be overwhelming. Here are some tips for identifying your letter-writers:

  • Because you are a student, you should identify at least one professor if not two to write your recommendations. Graduate programs want to know that you are intellectually prepared and capable to handle their specific program. Your faculty members can speak to this ability in you better than most.
  • Another person who may be a good recommender would be someone on campus or in your community that has served as an advisor to you. This person may be an advisor in a club or organization you have been a part of, your on-campus job supervisor, your off-campus supervisor, the director with whom you volunteer, anyone who would be able to speak about your personal character rather than your academic aptitude.
  • Try to avoid having a family member write your recommendation. While they probably do know you best, most people who read a recommendation from a family member or close friend would automatically assume that there is bias in the letter and perhaps not give it as much credit as it deserves. Try to find someone other than family or close family friends that have not interacted with you on either an academic or professional level.