Junior Year of College: Graduate School Planning Timeline
Your junior year of college may be your busiest, depending on how you plan out your classes. You'll begin to take upper division classes and start to understand why college can be so difficult. By now, you should also know what your major is, and if you don't, then you need to figure that out quick if you plan on attending grad school. The majority of your junior and senior year will be upper division classes required to complete your undergraduate degree, so you don't want to end up taking classes you don't need and delaying getting into graduate school. Here is a timeline to help you keep on track.
Fall Semester: Grades, upper division classes, and choosing your major
Don't let your grades fall behind
Though you may be in the full swing of things, your junior year will be tough. Keep your grades up by making sure you schedule enough time in your week to study. This goes for small quizzes, papers, and exams alike. Your classes will continue to ask more and more of you as you get closer to graduation.
Take another practice graduate school exam
Now is the perfect time to take a practice graduate school entrance exam. No matter what test you have to take, e.g. MCAT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, or something else, you'll want to be as prepared as you can so that you know what to expect and get the best score possible. Taking practice tests will help show you your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to focus on when you do study.
Choose the right classes
Since you are taking upper division classes, you'll want to be sure you are taking classes that not only interest you, but will also help you get into the graduate program you want to get into. This means that if you have to take classes you don't want to take but you know they are needed for graduate school, do it.
Pick the right major
If you haven't picked a major by now, do it. Choose something that you love to do and that can be applied to the career field you want to get into just in case you change your mind about a specific career. For example, just because you end up deciding not to be a doctor, doesn't mean your biology major won't get you a job in the medical field.
Career fairs are a free and fun way to figure out what type of job you want to do and what it takes to do that job. All schools will offer career fairs.
Schedule time to study for graduate school exams
You will often have to schedule your test date far in advance of actually taking the test. Schedule a time at the beginning of the year so that you're forced to study and are ready to succeed.
Make sure you're beginning to complete graduate school admissions requirements
Look again at what your possible graduate schools will require of you when you apply. Now is the time to do those things if you haven't already. Internships, volunteering, and special skills will all be things you will need to know in advance.
Winter Break: Organize, destress, check your finances, and prepare
Stay involved with extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities, like clubs, sports, and academic awards, will all set your graduate school application apart from the rest. Keep going on these things during the winter break, but also set aside some time to destress and recoup.
Organize your graduate school information
Time to get all of this information in one place so you are ready to apply next year. Create a folder on your computer or in google drive, start a checklist of things you need to complete with deadlines, and make sure you have everything you need to apply.
Narrow down your list of graduate schools
You've been looking at graduate schools and you now have a good idea what a number of graduate schools have to offer. Narrow down this list based on your finances, potential to get in, school ranking, professors at the school, etc. Anything that is important to you when you get accepted.
Prepare for your graduate school entrance exams
You've taken a couple of practice tests by now so you know what you need to do better. Buy some test booklets and study guides, schedule times to study when the Spring and Summer semester starts, and research what will be required of you.
Don't delay signing up for classes
Again, you should be signing up for classes as early as you possibly can. Even upper division classes fill up quickly, and quite often these classes will only be offered at certain times during the year. Don't miss out on taking the classes you need to graduate.
Reassess your finances
Constantly be looking at your finances, especially now. Make sure that you're prepared for the last year of your undergraduate degree and have a plan to pay for graduate school.
Spring Semester: Study, prepare, and take the required graduate school exam
Continue studying hard for your classes
Study, study, study. That sometimes seems like that's all you do when you are in college. Though it may seem overwhelming at times, trust us, it's worth it. Once you've gotten that A and everything is said and done, it will all seem like it went by faster than you think.
Start looking at your financial options
Graduate schools offer financial aid just like undergraduate schools. Check out possible scholarships you might qualify for, teaching and research assistantships to help pay for tuition, and anything that will help you cover your costs of graduate school. If you can find a way to get it paid for it'll be worth all of the work to get it done.
Contact your recommendation writers and mentors
By now you should have an idea who your mentors are and what professors you like best. These people will help you get into graduate school by preparing you for it, and also by writing you letters of recommendation. It is a good idea to contact these people and speak with them early so that they know what they need to do as well as help guide you in the right direction.
Apply for a summer job or internship
It can't be stated enough: Get a job or a summer internship if you aren't taking summer classes. Building on-the-job skills and real work experience for your resume will do wonders to helping you get into graduate school and succeed in the real world.
Set up appointments at your top grad school choices
Set up appointments with the admissions officers of the grad schools you want to go to. Meeting these people in person is a great way to get your name out there and begin to network.
Summer Semester: Internship, job and studying
Focus on building skills during your internship or job
Internships and jobs during college are meant to build your resume and develop lasting skills. These skills are perfect for your resume and will give graduate schools a reason to accept you into their program.
Get your finances in line
Save as much money as you can, apply for scholarships, and do whatever you need to do so that you don't have to take out a bunch of student loans, especially if you have already taken out some during your undergraduate program.
Start working on your application essays
Work on your statement of purpose and other application essays now so that you can revise and have your mentors read them over. Graduate schools look at these essays with a fine toothcomb, so make sure they are revised to perfection.
Study for your graduate school entrance test
Begin studying now and study often for your graduate school exam. You may have to retake them if you don't score as high as you wanted, which is completely normal, but you also don't want to have to make up a large amount of points the second time around.