Are you thinking about applying to graduate school this fall? There are many pieces to your application and planning ahead is key to your success. The summer is a great time to get a head start on this process. Most applications will have deadlines in late fall.

Here are five things you can work on now to prepare for the graduate admissions process.

Decide on your subject area and degree program
Do research online to learn about the different types of programs in your area of interest. Talk to your professors about your career or academic goals and ask for their insight. Faculty you have worked with are great resources for honest feedback on your strengths and weaknesses as well as suggesting graduate programs that will help you achieve your career and academic goals.

Meet the minimum requirements of the program
Many admissions committees expect students to possess experience with certain types of coursework, employment or other technical skills before enrolling in graduate school. Make sure that you will be able to meet the minimum requirements by the time you enter the program. Some requirements take a lot of planning, so it is imperative to know what you need to do before the application season begins.

Standardized tests
Most graduate programs require the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). You should decide when you will take the test and how long you need to study. Keep in mind you should plan to take the exam no later than Oct 1 of the fall you will apply for graduate school. GRE scores can take up to 8 weeks to arrive at your university and your application may not be reviewed if the scores arrive after the application deadline.

Letters of recommendation
The summer before you apply, you should decide who to ask for letters of recommendation. Strong letters come from those who know you best and should speak to your academic performance, skills and character. If you are applying directly from undergraduate school, choose at least two professors in (or closely related to) your academic discipline to write you letters; the third can be from a supervisor from an internship or job. Provide letter writers with ample time, a résumé, a brief description of the work you did for them, and deadlines and instructions for the programs to which you are applying.

Statement of Purpose and Essays
A statement of purpose (SOP) is an essay that describes your interest in the field, your skills and knowledge about the subject matter and your career goals. You should write about why you want to attend their University and how you will contribute to the program, as well as what you hope to gain. Each program has different guidelines so it’s important to tailor your personal statement to each. Take advantage of resources around you to improve your personal statement. It is a critical piece of your application!

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

Join an upcoming webinar
Download a resource guide