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Grad School Timeline

September, Fall Semester - January, Spring Semester (Junior Year)

  • Identify if graduate school is an option for you.
  • Do you need to obtain a graduate degree to further advance in your career or to obtain the job you want?
  • Speak with a faculty member and a career counselor at the Career Center about graduate school plans and alternatives.
  • Begin identifying what types of graduate programs you are interested in.
  • Write to schools you have selected to request admissions and financial aid applications.
  • Look carefully at their admissions requirements and pre-requisites
  • Begin to select at least 4-5 graduate schools of interest.
  • Identify how you can further prepare for graduate school. "How can you make yourself more marketable and a well-rounded candidate?"

September, Fall Semester (Senior Year)

  • Seek advice from a faculty member, a career counselor, and professionals in the field.
  • Consider conducting an informational interview with professionals in your field of interest about graduate programs and graduate degrees most appropriately related to the field you are trying to get into.
  • Continue writing to schools you have selected and request admissions and financial aid applications.
  • Register for required entrance examinations.
  • Study for the required entrance examinations.
  • Consider attending the Graduate and Professional School Fair on-campus.

October, Fall Semester (Senior Year)

  • Take required examinations.
  • Make contact with administrators, students, faculty and/or alumni at each institution you are considering for helpful information.
  • Go on campus tours and open house events to gather more information about the program.
  • Visit the campus; talk with admissions professionals, faculty and students from the program.
  • Begin drafting your Statement of Purpose, consider coming in to the Career Center for assistance.
  • Get your letter of recommendation requests out, to provide sufficient time for your recommenders.
  • Request your official transcripts

November, Fall Semester (Senior Year)

  • Secure letters of recommendation.
  • Secure your official transcripts.
  • Finalize your Statement of Purpose and have it reviewed one more time by a career counselor, faculty member, advisor, or mentor before you submit it.
  • Begin preparing any required financial statements. These are often required at the same time or earlier than the admissions application.

December, Fall Semester (Senior Year)

  • Take required examinations this month if you didn't take them in October or if you didn't do well the first time.
  • Begin sending in your admissions applications.
  • Follow-up on transcripts and letters of recommendation to see that they have been sent.
  • If you have not done so, visit the schools to which you are applying to.

January, Spring Semester (Senior Year)

  • This is your last chance to take the required tests for fall admissions (please note that it may be too late for some schools).
  • Check with each school to see that all of your materials have been received, including test scores and financial statements. If some of your application materials are missing, you might be eliminated from consideration.
  • If an interview is required as part of the admissions/selection process consider scheduling a mock-interview appointment at the Career Center.

February, Spring Semester (Senior Year)

  • Wait to hear whether you have been accepted as a potential candidate.
  • Continue to make contact with representatives of the schools to which you have applied to check on the progress of your applications.
  • Consider practicing your mock-interview skills for your entrance interview.
  • Finish outlining a contingency plan in the event that you are not accepted into graduate school.

If You Don't Get Accepted

  • Talk to a career counselor to determine reasons why you didn't get accepted and to determine additional options.
  • Realize that students are sometimes accepted on their second or third try.

Graduate School Timeline Senior Year

September

  • Talk to CSUF faculty and career specialists about graduate plans and alternatives.
  • Contact prospective schools and request admissions and financial aid applications.
  • Find out when graduate transcripts must be sent and what other materials are required with applications (use a calendar to mark these dates!)
  • Register for entrance exams and study, study, study!!!!!

October

  • Take entrance exams (takes about 2-3 weeks for schools to receive official scores).
  • Contact prospective school administrators, students, and faculty members for campus tours, class observations, interviews, etc.

November

  • Secure letters of recommendation (give recommenders at least 2 months to prepare this for you).
  • Prepare financial statements for financial aid application.

December

  • Take entrance exams if you didn't do so in October.
  • Send out admissions applications.
  • Verify that recommendation letters and transcripts have been sent.

January

  • Check with schools to see if they received all materials, including test scores, financial statements, recommendation letters and transcripts.

February

  • Wait and continue to check with school representatives or website for your status.
  • Have a contingency plan.

Tips for Developing a Personal Statement

Get Organized

  • Write an individual and unique letter for each school.
  • Make sure you follow the instructions accordingly.

The Essentials

  • Candor-honesty, sincerity, and authenticity
  • Grammatical accuracy and clarity
  • Good writing is writing that is easily understood
  • Have three or four people read your Personal Statement and critique it
  • Maintain the proper tone
  • Stick to the length that is requested

Advanced Personal Statement Theory

  • Make yourself stand out
  • Find your unique angle- ask yourself "Who am I?" "Why am I different?" "What distinguishes me from others?"
  • Always consider your audience

What to Leave out and What to Avoid

  • Don't repeat information from other parts of your application
  • In general, avoid, generalities
  • Don't try to be funny unless it's actually funny
  • Stay away from anything remotely off-color
  • Circumvent political issues if possible
  • Don't make religion the focal point unless you're applying to a graduate school or law school with a religious affiliation
  • Put the fraternity bake sale behind you- make sure that whatever you did rises to the level of having an actual impact on your life
  • No gimmicks; no gambles- avoid tricky stuff. Don't rhyme; don't write a satire or a mock-up front page newspaper article

Subject Matter to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

  • "My LSAT/GRE score isn't great, but I'm just not a good test taker."
  • "My college grades weren't that high, but…"
  • "I've always wanted to be a lawyer."- the admissions committee wants to know why
  • "I want to become a lawyer to fight injustice."- this is a very common topic, you want to make sure you stand out

Addendum

  • If a school welcomes an addendum, consider including one if you feel that there is additional information you would like to include
  • Please consult with a mentor, advisor, faculty member, or the career center before you consider adding an addendum