Once you’ve decided that you want to go to graduate school, it’s time to prepare you application packet. You need to draft and edit your personal statement (and edit it again, and again, and again—trust me), you need to ask your faculty for letters of recommendation, you need to take the GRE, you need to compile transcripts, and so on. Yes, it’s tedious and stressful process. Be proactive, get started now! The more time you give yourself, the more prepared you will feel when it is time to hit submit on your applications.
Let me add one thing to this list. Ask yourself where you want to go. I mean it, really consider were you want to go and compile your list of schools. Ask those same professors who will be writing letters of recommendation for you if they have any suggestions. Consider their suggestions. Research the schools and the programs. But keep in mind these are just suggestions. The list can and will change.
When I was applying to graduate school, I visited IU in October as part of the Getting You Into IU program and I knew IU was at the top of my list. But between October and December I often asked myself if I really wanted to move from California to the Midwest. I did. So my list of schools included 3 in California, 5 in the Midwest and 2 in the East Coast. Friends, family, and mentors often asked me if I was sure about my decision to leave California if I was not admitted to any of those schools, and I was. But, maybe you can’t see yourself living in the opposite coast or you don’t want to leave your home state.
Why is the list of schools so important?
- Application costs pile up quickly so it’s in your best interest to be selective.
- You need to apply to places you can see yourself living in. You’re about to spend at least 5 years in a program, you need to be happy where you are.
Grad school is challenging enough, pick a school in a city or town you really want to live in.