6 Must-Follow Tips for Applying to Graduate School
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6 Must-Follow Tips for Applying to Graduate School

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tips for applying to graduate school timeline checklist princeton review Pursuing an advanced degree brings an advanced degree of responsibility, juggling, stress, and to-dos. And that’s all while managing your undergrad degree or working full time (or both)! To help you untangle all those deadlines and taskmaster lists, we chatted with Robert Franek, Editor-in-Chief of The Princeton Review, about his top tips for applying to graduate school.

From managing your overall grad school timeline and staying on track with multiple deadlines to the importance of test prep and your personal statement, Franek shares his best advice about when to apply to grad school and how to stay organized doing it.


Trying to figure out when to apply to grad school? Oh, sure you may be thinking that December seems pretty far off but – surprise! – your grad school application timeline starts in May and June. There are a lot of moving parts to the process, and applying to graduate school begins with researching schools and preparing for the GRE or other entry tests you’ll need for your particular program.

Starting the research and prep process early will save students a lot of stress and anxiety, and leave time for proofreading and perfecting the application well ahead of the admission deadline,” says Franek. “Factoring in ample time to prepare for the GRE, including time to take the test a second time if you don’t hit your target score on the first try, and December 1st starts to seem like it’s coming pretty soon!”

Tips for Applying to Graduate School Timeline Checklist Infographic

Click to enlarge Grad School Timeline >>


Whether you prefer an online calendar, time management app, paper planner, or combination thereof, choose an organizational tool that suits you and your management style, and be methodical about tracking the tasks on your to-do lists.

“Keep track of every deadline and application item,” says Franek. “Break larger tasks, like drafting essays and studying for the GRE, into small, actionable tasks that you can complete on a weekly basis. Our test prep courses and books will help you map out a study schedule that fits your needs, whether you have 4 months or 4 weeks to prepare.”


Be it online at your own pace or in-person at a test prep center, signing up for a test prep class is a must when applying to graduate school. You get access to expert instructors, inside tips, real practice tests, and adaptive learning tools that can help you improve your scores and your time management.

“Make no mistake, superlative test scores are still the gatekeepers for academic admission and help unlock grant dollars to make the cost of graduate degree more affordable," says Franek. And when you take a test prep class with The Princeton Review, they guarantee your scores will improve. Bonus!


Nothing will prepare you better for the GRE (or like) than taking practice tests, which are set up and timed just like the real thing.

“Practice tests are key for getting comfortable with the format and pacing of the exam,” says Franek, who recommends taking three practice tests during the course of your grad school test prep. “But it’s important to remember that simply running through practice tests won’t help you raise your score – learning when to guess, how to put questions in your personal order of difficulty, and which questions are designed to trip you up are essential to boosting your score on any timed test.”


Nearly all schools require a statement of purpose – and possibly other written essays – and yours could be the deciding factor when the admission committee lines up candidates with similar GPAs and test scores. Those quantitative components, while important in selecting grad school candidates, say nothing about your passion and experience beyond the classroom. That’s the goal of your statement of purpose. You’ll need to give it your full attention. Make several drafts of your personal essay and fine tune it over a few weeks, leaving time for a professor, mentor, and trusted classmate review it and provide feedback.


Transcripts, letters of recommendation, your resume, essays, test scores – there’s a lot to keep track of when you apply to grad school. Then multiply it by 3 or 10 programs. Hopefully you’ve been keeping on top of your deadlines and to-dos (hello, tip #2!) Need more help? Cue our Ultimate Grad School Timeline and Application Checklist.

[   Download the Ultimate Grad School Timeline + Application Checklist   ]

“There are many steps in researching grad schools, identifying the best programs for your goals, and making contact with those schools—and that all comes before you start to assemble your application materials,” says Franek of managing your grad school timeline. “You’ll need time to draft your personal statement and any secondary essays, request transcripts from you college and any study abroad or other programs, and you absolutely must give the people who will write your recommendations at least 30 days’ notice.”

Like Franek suggested earlier: December 1st comes pretty fast.

Visit The Princeton Review for more test prep help and tips for applying to graduate school.


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