Applying to Graduate School: Timeline & Tasks

Applying to graduate school is time-consuming and expensive. Many graduate schools will require you to complete an application and submit a personal statement, 3 letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a resume and/or curriculum vitae, and financial aid form.


Get started early! The entire process in which you select schools, take entrance exams, and prepare application packets can take about a year - starting, ideally, the first semester of your junior year.

Our Timeline for Applying to Graduate School has information about all stages of the application process! The timeline has been written for students applying to doctoral programs in psychology or neuroscience. The steps are similar for most graduate programs - you'll need to investigate the correct dates for the type of program in which you're interested. 

Entrance Exams

You took the SAT or ACT for entrance into college. If you want to go to graduate school, you may need to take another entrance exam.

Graduate school entrance tests are field-specific: The LSAT is for law school, the MCAT for medical school. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is the most common entrance exam for most other fields.

You cannot know, for sure, which exams you'll need to take until you begin exploring requirements for specific graduate programs.

If possible, begin investigating graduate programs early in your junior year so you can determine which test(s) you'll need to take and when.

Letters of Recommendation

Your letters of recommendation will reflect your academic and pre-professional accomplishments during your college career. So, the quality of your letters will depend on the experiences you select and how well you perform.

Most graduate schools will request 2-3 letters of recommendation written by faculty members.

Personal Statement

Virtually all graduate programs will ask you to submit a personal statement. Think of it as your "professional statement" - it should reveal your career goals and your experience, skills, and abilities relevant to succeeding in the graduate program of your choice.

Your personal statement may be the most important brief essay you ever write, so don't skimp on revisions. Take it to Writing Tutorial Services to get help with organization, expressing your ideas clearly, and for a grammar/word usage/spelling check. Ask your letter of recommendation writers and professionals employed in your desired career to read your personal statement and suggest improvements.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Resume: Reflect on what you've done as a student and turn those experiences into accomplishment statements to create a resume targeted for the graduate program in which you're interested. Include volunteer positions, student & professional groups, part-time jobs or internship experiences relevant to your career of interest. Also list scholarships, other honors, and study abroad programs. If you've participated in a research lab, provide the name of the faculty member in whose lab you worked, information about the specific research project on which you worked, and what you accomplished.

Curriculum Vitae: A CV is a resume of your academic successes and research experience. If your goal is to attend to a research-oriented graduate program and if you began participating in a research lab early enough that you've authored or co-authored posters or papers or presented research results at a conference, then you may have sufficient material for a CV.


You'll need to send official transcripts from all of the colleges you've attended to each graduate school. Be sure to request them early. Order your official IU transcript from Student Central on Union.


Some schools require interviews and others request them. Most schools that request interviews rate them as being very important in determining whether students will be accepted.