Masters Program in the US
When applying to a masters programs in the United States, it is critical that you meet all the deadlines as posted for the graduate school and, if applicable, the university. Submitting an application that is incomplete or late will adversely affect your chances for admission.
During the process, preparation and careful planning are critical. Although applications for fall entry of the next academic year are typically due between November and January (i.e.: if you are looking to begin your studies for fall 2012 your application and materials will be due November 2011, etc, depending on the university) , it is a good idea to start your graduate school application process as early as possible. Getting your graduate school application in early ensures that you will have the time to resubmit materials lost in the mail as well as increase your chances for a teaching assistantship or fellowship (read: funding).
All graduate school applicants should begin the application process at least a year in advance of the posted deadlines. If you are in your junior year of your undergraduate education, start now. Senior year is going to be filled with final projects and papers and you will want to plan as much as you can before the start of your senior year. In order to make sure that you get all of your materials in on time and that they are of the highest quality possible, be sure to follow the proceeding timeline.
If you are starting the process a little later than outlined, you can certainly combine the monthly tasks into one. Remember this is a general outline and meant to get you thinking, and motivated, about the next step in your educational goals.
Spring (May June)
Research graduate programs keeping in mind which ones match your previous education and future goals
- Many students will be drawn to about 20 programs and this is fine! You will be able to shortlist to include just your top 5
- Excel sheets or MS word tables are a life saver will make sifting through the information a lot easier and a lot less chaotic
Take a GRE preparation class if you feel you may need extra help attaining a good score or if youre the kind of person that does better in a classroom setting. Plus, when you think about the financial investment made you will be less likely to skip a class or do your homework half heartedly
- Depending on the graduate program you are interested in applying to, you may need to take a preparation course for the LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT
After you complete your test prep course, take the GRE or whichever examination you are required to take
- Schedule the test for the first available date closest to the end date of your prep course- committing to the date will set a goal for you
Consider who you will ask for a recommendation, three is the norm. If you are still in university, or have recently graduated, the first people you should ask are your university professors. If you have been out of school for a while, ask your employers and co-workers. Their knowledge about your work habits will be especially helpful if you are applying to a program in the field you are working in
Create an outline for your statement of purpose. The statement of purpose is your chance to tell the admissions committee why you are a great candidate for the program and your personal reasons for wanting to apply to the program.
Summer (July September)
Talk to your undergraduate professors, or professionals in your field to help you narrow down which degree program is best for your passions and career goals
During these months your main goal is to cut your list down to five choices and indicate which documents they requirement as well as the stated deadlines on your excel sheet
- Find out of the program requires recommendations to be submitted electronically or if hard copies are accepted
Research the university and programs website to get all the information you need to make an informed application choice
- Cost, possibilities for fellowships or teaching assistantships, rankings, location, career services, alumni network
Take a second GRE Exam. Keep in mind that even if your school does not require that you take the GRE, some national fellowships and other forms of financial aid might require your GRE scores to apply
If applicable, register and take the GRE subject test
Using the outline you created in previous months, write a first draft of your statement of purpose
Finalize your graduate school choices and determine at least two professors from each school whose research reflects your own interests
Contact the people who you want to write your recommendations
Fall (October November)
Request official transcripts from all universities or colleges which you have attended , regardless if you earned a degree or if the courses are indicated on your transcripts from your degree granting university
- Important to note that some programs require that transcripts be sent directly from your undergraduate institution(s) to their admissions offices while others allow for the student to receive all transcripts and send them together to the admissions office with a cover letter
- Be aware of how many sets of transcripts need to be ordered and where they are required to be sent to
Send a description and relevant websites of the program to the people who will be writing your letters of recommendation
If possible, arrange for a campus visit to each school you are interested in. When you are there, talk to students and faculty to get a better idea of the environment
- If you are unable to visit, turn to the universitys website for virtual tours. Many are now utilizing Youtube to reach students who cannot make a trip
Have someone in your field review your personal statement. Revise it to fit the specific program you plan to apply to
Review your excel sheet and ensure that you have all the information requested and you are on track with deadlines
Complete applications for scholarships, fellowships and teaching assistantships and ensure you submit required documents by posted deadline
Winter (December February)
Complete your applications online!
- Record your username and password as well as all confirmation numbers in your excel sheet
- If an option, print your application out and save for your records
- Tip: Create a special email account just for your graduate school applications that way nothing gets lost in your personal email. Keep the email address simple and professional (i.e.: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Re-read all of your application forms and statement of purpose before clicking the submit button
Verify that your recommendations and other supplemental materials such as transcripts, have been sent
Most schools send a receipt to let students know they received their application. If you are missing any receipts, notify the school as soon as possible to ensure your application is completed before the deadline
Write thank you letters to your recommenders
Prepare for and attend admissions interviews. Make a list of common questions asked at a graduate school interview in addition to a list of questions that you want to ask each school
Relax! Youve worked your hardest to turn in the best graduate school applications. Treat yourself, you deserve it!
By April 1, signals the notification responses from all graduate schools on the status of your application. Be prepared for at least one rejection, as masters degree programs are competitive
If possible, visit the schools where you were accepted one last time to help you make your decision
Discuss your outcomes with a faculty member, graduate admissions counselor or professional
Review admission offers carefully- what steps need to be taken on your part? Do you need to formally accept the offer? If so, by when? Is there an enrollment deposit?
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