You're almost ready to graduate with your bachelor's degree, but don't stop working hard yet. Even though the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer, you'll want to keep focused now more than ever. Your senior year of college will be the most difficult as you are taking the hardest classes of your college career. You will likely be required to write more pages, make less mistakes, and perform better than in any of your other classes. Keep your last year's grades up and prepare for graduate school with this senior year timeline.
Fall Semester: Visit the schools and complete applications
Finalize your college list
Get your list of potential graduate schools finalized and gather the required materials needed to apply. Some say that you should apply to at least 5-10 schools if you are able to so that you are sure to get into at least one. However many you decide to apply to, organize your application materials so everything is in order.
Continue to visit schools
If you have some time during the fall semester, try and visit some graduate schools. This is a great time to go and see how the school functions while classes are in session and everyone is on campus. If you can, talk with some professors and see if you can sit in on a couple of classes.
Stay on track with your grades
Your senior year grades may be what graduate schools look at the most. Make sure that your grades during your senior year are as good as they can possibly be. Complete all your schoolwork on time, study hard for tests, and do extra credit if you have to.
Take the required graduate school entrance exam
You should have already scheduled a time to take your required exam, and if you haven't do it as soon as you can. You may have to retake the test, so you don't want to wait until the last minute.
Keep track of deadlines.
Between all of the admissions deadlines and schoolwork you will have to do during your senior year, you will have a lot of things to complete by a specific deadline. Set reminders if you have to. Planners, alarms, and online calendars are your best friend during this fast-paced time.
Ask for letters of recommendation.
Most schools will have a form or an online submission requirement for letters of recommendation. In either case, ask your mentors and professors to complete these letters of recommendation giving them plenty of time to complete them before the deadline. If possible, it might also be a good idea to speak with the ones writing the letters about your goals.
Meet with your advisor
Your college advisor should have some really good advice about getting into and succeeding in graduate school. During your senior year, plan to meet or speak with them multiple times to help answer any questions you have.
Along with doing well in school, the number one thing you should be focusing on is completing your application packages by the required deadlines. There may be different deadlines depending on the schools you are applying to, and some of them are likely during March and April of your final year. Apply early and make sure graduate schools receive all of the required documents.
Continue your scholarship search
Don't stop looking for and applying for scholarships. There is a lot of money out there for general students as well as for specific programs and schools, so make sure you keep looking. This is also a good thing to ask about when you visit graduate school campuses.
Winter Break: Follow up on applications and submit financial aid forms
Follow up with the schools you applied to
Don't forget to reach out to the schools you've already applied to and get any information you need.
Submit your FAFSA
Yes, you'll still have to fill out your FAFSA to qualify for scholarships and financial aid for graduate school. You'll want to do this early so that you can plan out your finances when you get accepted into school. Graduate school is significantly more difficult than your undergraduate, and the last thing you will want to stress about is money.
Finally, gather your transcripts and send any required documents to your potential college(s) if you haven't already
Spring Semester: Compare financial aid packages and make your final decision
Check out your options if you're put on a waitlist
Once you start getting letters in the mail from your potential schools, organize each of the letters so that you know where you got into and where you were put on a waitlist. If you are put on a waitlist, consider your other options and what you need to do next. You don't want to wait to get into a school if you have already been accepted elsewhere.
Compare financial aid packages
Each school will offer a different financial aid package depending on their tuition, teaching and research assistantships offered, and scholarships that you qualify for. It is a good idea to factor this into your final decision of graduate school.
Make your final graduate school decision
If you got into multiple schools, you will need to notify the schools you want to attend and don't want to attend of your decision. There are other students on waitlists who are hoping to get into just like you, so let these schools know so that they are able to notify these students of their acceptance. Likewise, you will need to notify the school you want to attend so that they can begin the enrollment process for you. Do this no later than the May 1st.
Complete enrollment paperwork
The school you decide to go to will require certain enrollment paperwork after you have been accepted. This will vary depending on the program and school, but will likely include choosing a graduate advisor, meeting with that advisor, deciding your graduate school path in terms of thesis or portfolio, and enrolling in classes.
Prepare for any last tests
Now is the time to think about retaking any graduate school entrance exams if you haven't already. Some schools will let you submit these scores after your application to show you can get a higher score. Also, if you've been accepted to graduate school already, there may be other tests you have to get into certain classes. Prepare for any and all of these.
Summer Break: Relax and prepare
Congratulations! It's time to be proud of yourself for getting into graduate school and pursuing an advanced degree. Take the summer to relax and prepare yourself for the next step towards obtaining your life's goals.