College of Graduate Studies
Combining nationally competitive academic and research opportunities.
Applications for graduate/professional school have varying due dates by school, and there are a lot of application materials to prepare. The first major step to get into graduate/professional school is getting your application in on time.
When to Start?
- Start early. Begin your search at least one year prior to the semester you plan on starting graduate or professional school.
- Do your research. Early in the process, explore your options and pathways for the career you want in order to help determine which programs will be best suited for you.
- Be aware of the deadlines. Each school is going to have a separate set of requirements and deadlines. It is crucial to stay aware of these dates for each school you are considering.
- Stay in contact with your references. One important piece of your application will be your letters of recommendation and, because you are relying on others to write these, be sure they are informed well ahead of time.
- Come meet Career Advisors at Career Services. We can help you to develop and strengthen your application materials, so they are ready to go before your applications are due.
Schools will have different deadlines and requirements. The following timeline is a general suggestion.
- By summer before the year you are planning to start graduate school, begin seriously considering whether or not graduate/professional school is right for you, and which programs would help you further your career goals.
- By August of the year before you plan to start graduate/professional school, begin your search and narrow your options to the schools that fit your goals. Pay close attention to the application deadlines for each school on your current list.
- By September of the year before you plan to start, have a list of schools you may want to apply to and make contact with the faculty from these schools. You should also be fully aware of the requirements and deadlines for each school still on your list. Additionally, be aware of when and where graduate/professional school admissions tests are being offered. Begin developing your application materials.
- By October, you should have your final schools selected and be in the process of finalizing all your application material. Most schools have application deadlines between November and February for the following fall semester, but some schools will have application deadlines as early as October.
- By November, have all your applications ready for submission.
Find a Program
- What is my purpose in attending graduate/professional school?
- You should have a clear reason for attending graduate or professional school that fits your goals.
- Going to graduate school as a “back-up plan” or because of unemployment are only good reasons if you discover that having a graduate degree will make you more relevant in your field and fits with your career goals.
- For more information about graduate school, visit the U of I College of Graduate Studies.
- Use the network of contacts you have established to help research and determine whether this is the best direction for you and your career path.
- It is important to set your priorities and understand what you will be gaining and what you may be giving up in order to attend graduate or professional school. Knowing your goals, values, and alternatives, and taking them into consideration as you make your decision, will give you the clarity and understanding to make an informed, correct, and lasting choice.
- Your decision on your field of study should be grounded in making yourself the best possible candidate for the career you are pursuing.
- There are many logistical considerations (e.g., location, cost, housing, funding) and academic considerations (e.g., environment, faculty, research interests) that will help narrow your search.
- One important extra question to ask at this stage is: What kind of funding do I need and are there graduate teaching and/or research assistantships available at the schools where I am applying?
- is a large database of different graduate schools you can search to start your list of potential graduate schools.
- has resources for graduate school searches and preparation materials.
- is a great help in searching for schools and preparing graduate and professional school application materials.
- has a list of top-ranked graduate programs and information about applying for graduate schools.
- offers advice, tips, and research resources for graduate school searches.
In addition to websites, it is important to be aware of other resources available for graduate/professional school searches in your field. Some fields have published directories with lots of information on each program available in that specific field of study. Do some research and networking to see if there is a directory in your field.
Some graduate/professional schools will recruit at job fairs, so check to see if the schools on your list will be attending a career fair near you or an online virtual career fair you can attend from anywhere.