When Is The Right Time To Start Preparing For Graduate School?

There’s no denying the lure of grad school. Many students see studying for a master’s degree or PhD as a chance to get in on the ground floor of the prestigious career track that is academia. But it’s easy for grad school hopefuls to feel lost about how and when to apply. The process can be tough to navigate, especially for prospective students who haven’t yet completed their undergraduate degrees.

Applying to grad school requires months of prep work, careful planning, and enough money to make a small down payment like application fees and some examinations like Graduate Record Examination, GRE. Then there’s the whole waiting thing. The good news is, your time to apply is closer than you think! This blog post will cover all the steps you should consider in advance when applying to grad school plus tips for every part of the grad school application process.

Inside — When Is The Right Time To Start Preparing For Graduate School?

As you already know, Graduate school is a great next step in your education. It offers the opportunity to pursue advanced degrees either for personal development or to prepare for a career area you are interested in. Picking the right time to start preparing can be helpful to you and your future. In this blog post, we will talk about graduate school and the steps to consider. We will walk you through choosing a graduate program and give you tips on how and where to find the graduate school that is right for you. 

In this post, we are going to hold you by hand and walk you through some questions such as, how many graduate applications should I submit and a suggested application timetable. We will also talk about how long you should prepare and how you need to prepare. So, without further ado, let’s get started with the steps to consider when applying to graduate school. 

Steps to Consider When Applying to Graduate School.

Choosing the right time to start preparing for graduate school is a very important decision. Preparing for graduate school is a gradual process that begins the moment you start your undergraduate degree. Most people don’t want to go for higher studies immediately after their graduation. On the contrary, some people start preparing for it even before they finish their undergraduate degree. Whatever is the case, certain steps should be considered for a successful application for graduate school some of which should begin with questions such as:

1. Should I take some time off before applying?

2. Am I ready to take on the challenge of graduate school?

3. What is my financial situation like?

4. Why do I want to go for higher studies?

5. How will going to graduate school help you achieve your long-term goals?

6. What graduate program is good for me?

7. What are the application requirements?

8. How many graduate school applications should I submit?

The answer to these questions will help you make an informed decision on the best preparation route and how much time you have to invest in the application process. 

Should You Take Some Time Off Before Applying?

Deciding whether to take a time off is an important question when preparing for graduate school. It requires a lot of introspection. It covers other questions such as, am I ready to take on the challenge of graduate school? What is my financial situation like? Why do I want to go for higher studies?

Graduate school can be a costly endeavor. If you are considering a graduate degree, you will need to plan financially as well as academically. In addition to the cost of tuition and fees, there are other expenses that you may incur — such as the cost of books, supplies, and living expenses. So, if you are indigent or would have to take care of your family or sick one, you might just want to take a break and work for a while. This is of course for the financially; we have the academic to consider.

Some graduate programs might require you to have some form of experience. Say, a research experience. This is one of the major requirements for most graduate programs, especially doctoral degrees. Your level of experience will help you determine if you would want to take your time and gain some experience or not. 

Although, many graduate students receive funding for their education in the form of student loans, grants and fellowship, etc. Also, while you are an undergraduate, you probably did some volunteering, internship or some form of a relevant part-time job. These will help shape your decision. But you know what? Whatever be the case, there is never harm in trying. You may just have to give it a try regardless. 

Graduate School, Why?

This is the next big question on which we have been hammering upon, because, this is a question that is capable of seeing you through graduate school. So, when preparing for graduate school, It is helpful to answer the question, “how will graduate school contribute to my long-term goals. Do you need a help? Then check out one of our recent posts on Why You Should Pursue a PhD. 

However, after you can answer this question, it is time for you to have a clear idea about what you want to study at the graduate level. We were able to cover this topic in greater detail in one of our recent blog posts about Graduate Studies Abroad. I highly recommend you check that out too. Meanwhile, this leads to choosing a graduate program.

Choosing a Graduate Program. 

Some students have an idea about what they want to study in graduate school. For others, this is a new world. When identifying prospective programs many factors can influence your decision, such as research interests, location, reputation and price. Why you may want to aim high, consider your competitive advantage. 

Applying can be expensive, so you would want to be very familiar with the entrance requirements. You should also look out for Funding opportunities available in the program, the acceptance rate, application fees and possibly waivers, cost of living.

Research the schools and programs that you may be interested in attending. Read through the information provided by each school, pay close attention to the requirements, especially any special requirements that may not come directly from your specific major or department of interest. You can also reach out to current students or recent alumni of schools you wish to attend. 

It is important to align your interest with faculty interest when making graduate school choices. Review the research areas of the faculty. Are there professors who are doing research in the areas that interest you? Do the course and specialization offered fit your interests and career goals? 

However, if your interest aligns with those professors and/or courses in the graduate program, your chances of getting a research or teaching assistantship is increased. Remember that the professor(s) you work with play a vital role in your career as well as your success in the program. See what we think of Graduate School Abroad!

Take advantage of any or all of these resources for raking and general program locators. 

1. The Carnegie Classifications for university classification according to their research capacity. 

2. BrainTrack a college and university Directory

3. PhD.org for PhD ranking based on the 1995 survey data collected by the National Research Council. 

4. Diverse Issues in Higher Education for ranks in graduate programs based on minority student participation. 

Application Requirements For Postgraduate Studies.

The most common entry level requirement for a postgraduate course is an undergraduate degree. So, you should be having a bachelor’s degree to apply for a postgraduate course. There are other requirements too, which are more specific depending on the university and course you wish to pursue.

1. A typical application requirements for postgraduate studies are as follows:

2. Online Application Form

3. Curriculum Vitae (Resume)

4. Two Recommendation Letters

5. Statement of Purpose (SOP)

6. Official Academic Transcripts in English 

7. Degree Certificate(s) in English 

8. Standardized Exam Scores such as GRE, GMAT, etc.

9. IELTS or TOEFL certificate 

10. Certificate of Finance 

11. Passport Copy

Please subscribe to our newsletter so you can be the first to get a notification of our next blog post where we will discuss these requirements in-depth. 

How Many Graduate School Applications Should I Submit?

Graduate school admissions are competitive. You will want to apply to a range of schools as you never know where you will get in. Some students apply to 15 or more graduate schools, while others choose only a few. If you are applying for very competitive programs, then you may want to apply to more schools. If you are applying for less competitive programs, then you may be fine with applying to fewer schools.

There is no set number of applications that each person should submit. It depends on your goals, how selective the programs are, and how far away from home you’d like to go. If your goal is to attend graduate school, then it is wise for you to apply to a variety of programs. This will help ensure that you gain admission into a program that meets your needs and goals.

I recommend you may want to limit yourself to Five or seven universities (and two or three programs within each). This depends on how much work you’re willing and able to put into the applications. If your schedule allows it, you might send out as many as 10-12 applications. But don’t just submit an application for the sake of it: a halfhearted and unfocused application does more harm than good, particularly if it’s obvious that you haven’t done your homework on the university or program. Bottom line is that quality matters more. 

Suggested Timetable for  Graduate School Application.

You have many things to think about and prepare as you plan to apply to graduate school. In this timetable, we assume you are probably in the penultimate year of your undergraduate degree. If you have graduated or are in your 2nd or 3rd year. Whichever way, that works. As a rule of thumb, one year is ideal for graduate school preparation and that is the timeline used herein with some waiting time. We also started with January as the first month of the year but any month can work.  Here is a suggested timetable for the application process.

TimelinePreparing For Graduate School Check
January• Explore options. These include graduate school, professional school (law, medical), and the world of work.
February• Learn about yourself. What are your strengths? What do you like to do? What are your goals?

• Research graduate schools and degree programs that match your interests and goals, and learn about their admission requirements.
March• Take courses in your field of interest.

• Complete a research project with a faculty mentor.

• Participate in volunteer or internship opportunities related to your field of study
April• Register for the GRE exam, if required by the graduate program, and prepare for it. Ask your professors for recommendations on materials, classes, etc. to help you prepare for the GRE exam(s).
May• Learn how to write a personal statement.

• Visit the Writing Center, Career Center, Financial Aid Office and/or Disability Support Services Office.
June• Write up your personal statement and CV/resume.

• Have it reviewed by your advisor, faculty members and/or career services center.
July• Take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam)

• Look into scholarship opportunities.

• Make a list of programs and their deadlines.
August• Order for your official transcripts from undergraduate institutions attended.
September• Share your personal statement with a professor you know. Ask advice about graduate school to be sure that this is what you really want to do.

• Narrow your graduate program choice 
October• Revise your personal statement and tailor it down to your chosen program. 
November• Request three letters of recommendation from faculty members who know you well. Give the specific information on the deadline and follow up to ensure that they meet the deadline 

• Download application form and complete draft. Review and edit your draft. 

• You can share it for reviews. 
December• Submit Completed Application Form. 
January• Follow up to ensure supporting documents were sent. 

• Wait, and be patient!
April• Receive acceptance letter, Congratulations. 
Suggested Timetable for Preparing for Graduate School: www.jobsandjapa.com


If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, then it’s time to start preparing. It may seem early to begin thinking about Graduate School now, but you don’t want to be caught off guard later on when you need to be prepared. If you think that graduate school is something that may interest you, then there are several places where you can begin looking for information on how to go about getting a Master’s Degree or PhD. You can even start engaging in research now as well if it interests you. 

If there is any one answer to the right time to start graduate school preparation, That time is now! The application process is much more involved than undergraduate applications, so starting early will keep you from feeling rushed or overwhelmed. In this post, we believe that we have explored almost every box that needs to be checked when preparing for graduate school. Regardless of your future plans or your current career, having a Graduate Education is never a bad thing.

Below are frequently asked questions. We encourage you to ask your questions via the comments section. We will try our best to update the FAQ as soon as we get more questions. Give us Feedback via our email, jobsandjapa@gmail.com, and subscribe to our newsletter. 

Frequently Asked Questions on The Right Time to Start Preparing for Graduate School FAQ

How do I get started?

First, schedule an appointment with a career counselor or academic advisor who can help you get started. If you can’t meet in person, you can email them to set up a phone conversation. They will provide you with tools and resources that will help you get started on the right path toward graduate school.

How long will it take me to complete my graduate degree?

The length of time it takes to complete your degree depends on the field of study, the department or university requirements, the nature of your research, the availability of funding, and your level of dedication. Most PhD programs require five to six years of full-time study beyond the bachelor’s degree; most MFA programs require two or three years; and most MA/MS programs require one or two years. Some doctoral programs have time limits that may be shorter than five years (e.g., four or five years). Some fields also require an internship, which may add an additional year of study after your coursework is complete.

How Far in Advance Should I Start Preparing for Standardized Tests?

The amount of time you’ll need to prepare for each standardized test depends on your study habits and how much time you need to reach your target score. However, it’s best to take each test at least once before you submit your application. For example, if you’re planning on applying in fall 2019, aim to take both the GRE and the GMAT by early 2019. This allows enough time for you to retake the test if necessary.

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The right time to apply for graduate School.

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