Grad School Application Checklist: 2 Months Out

Don Martin Dr.

This is the 11th installment of our series on what you should be doing in advance of submitting your graduate school applications. Two months out, it's time to start completing them.

Hopefully, this part of the process will flow smoothly because of all of the preparation you have undertaken up to this point. Your goal here is to be calm and at ease while putting together each graduate school application. Here are some tips to do so successfully.

1. Set aside regular time: While there is no right or wrong way to do this, spending one or two hours every other day on your applications might be less tiring or daunting than working the entire weekend.

2. Know what needs to be done: Make a list of all of the requirements you need to complete for each application. If you are applying to six programs, you will have six lists.

What is on each list will be repetitive in many cases, but it will allow you to check off each requirement as you complete it. The last item on each list should be paying your application fee. You would be surprised how often applicants fail to do this.

[Learn how graduate schools evaluate your potential.]

3. Map out what you want to complete in each session: This will give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of that session and allow you to track your progress. You might want to make a schedule, noting what you want to do for each work session for the coming two to three weeks.

4. Set up a dedicated application work station: The work you are doing will require mental energy, diligence, and the ability to focus. To that end, keep everything (your institution spreadsheet, your application spreadsheet and lists, and any other written information you have gathered) in one place.

Do not move your work station. When you do, you run the risk of losing or misplacing something.

[Avoid these common pitfalls graduate students face.]

5. Create a relaxing work environment: Some applicants do better working in complete silence, while some enjoy listening to music. Others will light candles or have "white noise" in the background. Some will have food and beverages nearby.

Do whatever you need to do to concentrate, remain calm, and complete each session without undue interruption.

6. Finish whatever section or activity you are working on: Do not stop in the middle. If you stop before you are finished, you run the risk of forgetting to go back and complete that section or activity.

For example, when entering all of your demographic information (name, address, phone number, E-mail address, educational background, professional experience, etc.), complete the entire section. If you are providing information on those who will write letters of recommendation for you, do so for all of them at the same time.

[Discover ways to evaluate graduate schools while applying.]

7. Complete your essays: Using the outline you developed last month will help you keep on track and not veer off the subject. Make sure your talking points for each essay are wholly in line with what is asked in the question.

8. Confirm deadlines with all of your recommenders: In addition to notifying them about dates, you will most likely need to provide them with login information to complete their letters. Do this well in advance.

[Learn how to handle a negative recommendation.]

9. Confirm transcript requests: Check that your transcript and test score requests were received by the institution/testing organization and that the documents have been sent.

By organizing yourself in this way, you lower the risk of making mistakes, rushing, and feeling stressed out while you are working on your graduate school applications.