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graduate | opinions & advice | applying to graduate school
Grad School Application Timeline
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If you're planning to apply to graduate school, it's best to start early.
Applications for most PhD programs are due in December or January, while deadlines for master's programs tend to hit in January, February or March. No matter which degree you pursue, starting early will give you more time to prepare and polish your application.
Applying earlier will also increase your odds of being admitted. Many graduate programs have rolling admissions, so applications are evaluated as they arrive (rather than all at once). Spots fill up as the final deadline draws near.
Here's a sample schedule for a student hoping to enter grad school in the fall. This is a best-case scenario which leaves time to craft a great application, resolve unforeseen problems (a lost transcript, a delinquent recommender) and submit with time to spare. Of course, you'll need to tweak this schedule to fit your schools' deadlines.
One final note: Almost every grad school applicant will receive at least one rejection. While that won't be fun, it's not quite the final act. Call your contact professors in that department and politely express your regret at not being admitted. Ask them if they can point out where your application was weak or give you some suggestions on how you might strengthen your candidacy in the future. This will help if you choose to re-apply the following year.