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Tips for someone only starting the application process now?


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Hello everyone! This is my first post on this forum, so pardon if this isn't quite in the right place...

I recently graduated from college and am looking to enter a graduate program next fall. (I want nothing more than to be back in school again!) Thing is, I've procrastinated a bit on this. I have a general idea of where I would like to attend and have only started studying for the GRE today.

I'm determined to find a grad school that will accept me, even though I feel as though I'm starting very late for someone intending on going back to school in the Fall of 2016. Does anybody have any helpful tips or advice they'd be willing to give me?

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Doesn't sound that late to me. Deadlines typically range from 12/1-2/1. Mostly around 12/15-1/15. Take the GRE, it's not that big a deal, work on your essays, get your LORs in order, and figure out where you want to go and who you want to work with. The rest is pretty easy.

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There are two priorities. On the "get this done" front, you need to take the GRE and figure out if there is anything else time consuming that needs to happen. (e.g. ordering transcripts from different previous institutions can sometimes take a bit of time.) This can take time, but it's pretty clear what needs to happen. On the "figure this out" front, you need to decide on two large questions -- why you are applying to grad school, namely what your interests are and what you hope to accomplish by going to grad school, and which schools in particular are right for you. These are difficult questions and can take a lot of soul searching to answer, but they are very important for writing a strong SOP and choosing the right school. If you end up at a place that can't support your goals, there is not much point in investing the time and money in doing this. For getting started on this, I would suggest sitting down and writing an early version of an SOP (which will change a lot down the line, most likely). This can help you think through your goals. Then try and identify potential LOR writers and go talk to them about your grad school plans. Ask for advice on where you apply. Also try to identify the researchers whose work you find most exciting (e.g. by browsing through the big name journals in your (sub)field, or looking through the programs of the recent major conferences in your (sub)field); read up on their institutions and see if you can identify other researchers at those same schools that are also interesting. As a rule of thumb, you want at least 2-3 options for potential advisors at each school you apply to. Once you identify schools, you go on their application page to see what they require and what their deadlines are, and you just take it from there. It is a bit late to just start thinking about this now, but not impossible to get it done.

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