Prepare for Graduate School

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Start planning now!

If you want to get the most out of graduate school, you need to apply with a career plan. Graduate programs are looking for individuals who apply with a goal in mind. The following resources will be helpful during your research and application process.

Key factors to consider when looking at graduate schools:

  • Departmental reputation in the field
  • Curriculum requirements
  • Research specialization areas of faculty
  • Degrees offered
  • Admissions requirements
  • Size of the program
  • Types of financial support available
  • Program accreditation
  • Location of institution
  • Potential assistantships/internships
  • Enrollment policies: continuous vs. specific enrollment periods

Graduate School Timeline

Each graduate program has a different process and you should develop your own system and timeline for those processes. The application process can be lengthy, and that is why it is crucial to start preparing early. Even though the entire process may not take a year of preparation, below is a timeline to get you started to ensure that you have considered important factors of the application process.


  • Write a draft statement of purpose/personal statement.
  • Develop your resume.
  • Start browsing through guides to graduate programs, websites, and college catalogs.
  • Review requirements for standardized tests, and which tests are accepted at various schools.


  • Meet with faculty members that you know to discuss your personal statement and learn about possible programs.
  • Ask for faculty members in your discipline if they would be willing to write a strong letter of recommendation.
  • Begin to develop your personal timeline for the application process.
  • Sign up for required standardized tests. Study for the tests and take practice tests.


  • Determine the schools to which you plan to apply, and request application materials.
  • Take standardized tests. Take them early enough to have scores available before application deadline, and also to retake tests if necessary within a certain time frame.
  • Finish your timeline based on each institution's deadline and financial aid deadlines.
  • Complete your personal statement, adjusting it to meet each application's specific needs.
  • Order transcripts from all post-secondary institutions (If fall term grades are expected, then check with staff in the registrar's office to see if a transcript including fall term grades can be sent in time to meet the deadlines of programs to which you are applying).
  • Explore and apply for sources of fellowships and scholarships.


  • Complete application forms. Consider completing a rough draft of the application on a photocopy. Be sure to type and proofread your information.
  • Supply recommenders with your personal statement, resume, and a summary of the specific programs where you will apply. The more informed they are about your intentions, the better they can target your letters.


  • Mail applications. Even if deadlines are later, it is good to get the applications in early.
  • Look into graduate assistantships/internships is interested in applying. These opportunities will provide you with hands on experience and assist with supplementing finances.


  • Contact programs about the possibility of visiting. Make trips if possible.
  • Look into dates for possible graduate school receptions and/or orientations.


  • If you are applying for need-based financial aid programs, you may be required to file a copy of your federal income tax return.
  • Send thank you letters to those who served as your recommenders and let them know the outcome of your applications.

Graduate School Resources

Websites to assist you with admittance, writing a personal essay, and finding money for school:

Books Available at UW Libraries:

  • Graduate Admissions Essay: Write Your Way Into the Graduate School of Your Choice
  • How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School
  • Getting Money for Graduate School

UW Tacoma Resources

Test Prep Info

Before applying for admission to graduate school, you should determine the correct standardized test(s) needed. Be sure to study for and take tests early enough to have scores available before application deadlines and to also retake exams if necessary.

The UW Tacoma Library has test preparation books for the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT available for checkout or in-library reference use. Career Development and Education has free informational booklets on the GRE and LSAT.

Links to Common Standardized Tests