Applying to grad school can sometimes feel a little complicated, particularly since there are so many moving parts. It helps to have a schedule you can follow, so that you can keep track of everything you need to be doing.
Most application deadlines tend to fall between December and March, with Ph.D. programs having earlier due dates (typically in December/January), and Masters programs being a little later (some as late as March). The schedule listed below is tailored to fit even the earliest due dates, while still giving you time to thoroughly complete each application, and still submit it at least a few weeks ahead of deadline.
Of course, this schedule is not set in stone--take some time to map out the deadlines for each of your schools, and tweak your application schedule to fit.
Starting early is key. May is the time to slowly rev up your grad school application process. Start researching schools, picking specializations, and investigating programs. Make sure to pay special attention to the GRE score and GPA requirements for each program.
Take a practice GRE. This will let you know if you're scoring where you need to be for the programs you're considering (Don't know what the score requirements are? Take a look at each program's website; it should be listed there. If it's not, give them a call and ask!). If the results are not to your satisfaction, sign up for a GRE course (or buy some GRE prep books), and start studying!
Finalize your school list. Keep on studying for the GRE. Sign up to take the GRE next month.
Take the GRE. Starting brainstorming, outlining, and drafting your statement of purpose. If you need to take any GRE Subject Tests, starting planning ahead: you'll need to take them in October or November.
Applications are available! Download them, and start filling them out. If any of them require any additional essays besides the statement of purpose, start working on them. Request transcripts from your undergraduate and graduate institutions, and speak to your recommenders about drafting letters. Visit schools, if you can.
Retake the GRE for the last time (if necessary). Take GRE Subject Tests (if you need to); if you're not taking them this month, next month (November) is the last time you can before application deadlines. Work on your CV.
Put the finishing touches on all essays, and your CV. Take GRE Subject Tests (if you need to); this is your last chance to do it before deadlines. Put everything in your applications together, and have a few different people read through the whole thing. Ask them to be picky and mention anything they find fault with!
Submit your applications! And then verify that schools have received everything (including letters of recommendation, which need to be sent directly from your recommenders, and transcripts, which need be sent directly from your schools).
If you're applying for financial aid, now is the time to complete those applications, look for scholarships, and seek out grants. If you're a U.S. student, make sure to fill out the FAFSA.
February and March
The waiting game begins. You've submitted everything. Now you wait to hear from schools.
Decision time! Schools will typically let you know of their decisions around this time. Time to gather up all your acceptances and choose your school!
Have a question about applying to grad school you'd like me to answer? Send me an email!