A financial aid countdown for graduate school
Senior year is graduate admissions time! Below is a timetable of what you should do to prepare to get into and pay for graduate school.
June through September before your senior year in college:
- Take the necessary standardized tests for admissions for your specific program, which may include the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, DAT or GMAT.
- Take the appropriate tests for your program early to ensure that your scores arrive before the admission deadline and so you have the chance to retake the test, if necessary.
- Gather graduate program catalogs and research schools, accommodations, programs of study, etc.
- Consider which faculty members you want to ask for letters of recommendation.
- Research financial aid sources (grants, scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, Federal Stafford and Perkins Loans, GradPLUS Loans) through your financial aid office.
- Examine each of the program applications (transcript, standardized tests, recommendation letter, and personal statement/admissions essay).
- Start drafting your personal statement. Take the time to write your personal statement. It should be of substance and should contain information about your personality, individuality, field of study, academic record, and non-academic experiences. Leave a valuable impression, for your statement will have a strong impact on whether you are accepted or rejected into the program.
- Ask faculty for recommendation letters. It may be helpful to provide faculty with sample recommendation letters, a copy of your transcript and your personal statement.
November and December:
- Arrange for your official transcript to be sent to each program to which you have applied.
- Complete your personal statement.
- Organize your records and record the due date for each application.
- Complete your program applications.
- Mail your applications.
- Keep track of any postcards or email confirmations sent by schools stating they received your application.
- Contact the admissions office to confirm that your application was received before the deadline.
- Plan for the admissions interviews
- Prepare questions to ask during an interview, for example what are distinguishing characteristics of the program? Where are recent alumni employed? What kinds of scholarships or fellowships are available? What are the teaching opportunities or internships available?
- Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as you can to ensure you are eligible for financial aid
- Visit schools where you’ve been accepted and gather information regarding financial aid packages. Meet other grad students and ask what they think about their advisors, classes, coursework, and more.
- Notify the specific program that you’ve accepted with a thank you note and also notify the programs that you declined with a note stating your decision and thanking them for the offer.
May through July:
- Prepare to pay your tuition bill!
- Research tuition payment plans with your school. These may help you spread out the costs of tuition over a longer period of time.
- Compare student loan options and choose the best loan or set of loans. Make sure to look into the GradPLUS Loan – a federally-backed student loan especially for graduate students.
- Create a budget for yourself – know what your other expenses will be (rent, bills, transportation, books, etc) and make sure you have prepared to pay not just your tuition bills!