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Timeline for grad school

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Hi all,

I created a timeline to get a big overview of what is involved in preparing and going to grad school here: http://thecollegestuff.com/home/grad

It is still a work in progress, so please provide feedback if you see something wrong or if you have relevant links I should add there or anything else you feel I should add to help students.

Lot of my juniors, friends, cousins ask me how I prepared, what I did etc, so I thought I will put together a nice interactive timeline. Do not hesitate to provide any kind of feedback. You can leave feedback here or on the site.


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I would recommend changing the word "mock" test for "practice" test. Also, it might be good to take the GRE at the end of September or by mid October in case someone decides they want/need to retake it.

Also, around August you should start contacting the professors, before the application process begins, not after! It's good to have them on your side when the application comes around, plus, some universities require faculty sponsorship. It's also good to contact possible advisors in advance in order to know if they'll be taking students.

Contacting other grad students in advance is also helpful since they can give you inside information about the school, the environment, the professors, and might even give you application tips.

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A lot of grad school applications are highly discipline specific, so I'd suggest separating things out into at least Humanities/Social Sciences/Bio & Physical Sciences. 


Overall, I'd say the timeline is a bit late. 


Personally, I had decided on first round schools by May-June, took the GRE early August, and had my first apps done in September. 


This is also discipline specific, but I had 2/3 offers in hand by November, and did my school visits in December. 


Contacting professors is one of those things that's very discipline specific. It's really rare in STEM fields to do it until after the application process is partially through. 


As mentioned above, in other areas it's crucial to make those connections early, before you apply. 


Also, no offense, but referring people to Peterson's Guide and Princeton Review is, imo, a really, really bad place to start for research grad schools. Those group by reputation, and "ranking". In general, for grad school applications you should be going by interest. Read papers, see where those authors are, search out similar research and similar authors. Do the footwork and talk to your faculty and get word-of-mouth suggestions. Go to conferences, and see people talk in person. 


Similarly, I'd say 2 mos of GRE prep is overkill for most people. Take a practice test. If you do decently, don't spend much time studying- that time could be better spent in working on almost any other part of your CV or application, as GRE scores are only really helpful up to a certain point. 


You have learning about professors research in August, but as I mentioned above, it should be the professor's research that is drawing you to the school, rather than deciding on the school and then looking for interesting professors. 


I'd give way more time for SoPs- those are arguably the most important part of your application, and you want to have time to write, write, and re-write. 


I'd also recommend starting an application at a school as soon as applications open for the year, and immediately requesting transcripts from your school. Nothing delays an application like unanticipated bureaucracy! You want to have an application started so the school has your name on file when GRE scores and transcripts arrive.


Not exactly sure what "Get your finances in place" is in February- frequently, financial offers won't go out until the offers do. 


Also, April is really late to be getting acceptances. The 15th is the latest you can accept, generally, and I'd anticipate getting letters in Feb-March, and making visits to schools in March and April. 


You also left out interviews and visits- I'm not sure if they're not typical for your discipline, which is again why I suggest discipline specifics. 


In the sciences, not getting a paid visit to the school would be a huge red flag- most have accepted student weekends to visit, and many also do interviews. 


Anyway, just my thoughts. 

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