Keeping Grad School Applications Organized


gradI am nothing if not organized and in the graduate school application process I have found myself inventing ways to keep track of what goes where, what is already finished, what has been sent and so on and so forth. With six different schools to apply to there was a lot of organization needed to make sure that everything was on schedule and completed. Being that I am certainly not the last person who will be applying to grad school I thought I would share with you my chart for tracking documentation for applications.

Clicking on the picture above will allow you to download a word document which outlines the grid I put together for my largest application packet. Obviously depending on your status and depending on your school your requirements will differ – certain schools offer online letters of recommendation submission, some schools do not offer a graduate assistantship application, not all of you will have or require a gren card copy etc. What I did for this particular school is put all documentation on the left column and the next three columns represent items needing to be mailed to the main graduate school office, items needing to be mailed to the graduate school office of the department you are applying to and items needing to be submitted online.

In the document you can see shaded boxes which represent that those particular materials are not to be submitted to that department, X’s which represent the fact that materials are in hand and ready to submit but have not yet been sent, and highlighted yellow boxes which represent that items have been sent to the department already. I hope you get as much use out of this table as I did in my applications process!

Some tips to keep in mind:

Create an account: create an online account for application submission, doing this will allow you to find out whether the school requires online submission of letters of recommendation or whether they allow physical mailing of said letters as well. This is a particularly important aspect which I ran in to when schools did not state that they preferred online submission of recommendations on the main website but did state this inside the “members area” of the application submission section of the website.

Find Out What You Need: Survey every aspect of the graduate school applications website, many of the programs I applied to require an application to the main graduate school as well as an application to the department you are applying to (there is only one fee, don’t panic). Each of these applications require different supplemental materials and you may have to search for what these materials are because websites are not always the most organized places to gather information. If you have any questions about what you need to submit contact the admissions office for the main graduate school AND for the department you are applying to by telephone or even e-mail.

Contact Faculty Beforehand: Contact the faculty members that you are interested in working with before even writing your Statement of Purpose! Most programs will request that you state who you wish to work with (it may be helpful to mention a couple of members with whom you are interested in working), finding out beforehand if your interests match with the faculty and whether they are even taking on new advisee’s for that particular term is critical. If you write your Statement of Purpose talking all about working with Dr X and Dr X isn’t taking new advisee’s for the term you are applying for then simply put – you’re out of the running right then and there.

Tracking, tracking, tracking: When mailing in any materials don’t get cheap, you want to be able to track the materials that you have been working so hard to get together. Since many of the addresses you will be sending information to are P.O Boxes you cannot use FedEx or UPS to track but you can use USPS priority mail with delivery confirmation – will it cost a lot to send all of your packets? Yes. Will it be worth it? YES!

I hope you found these tips helpful and I’ll continue to share with you my experience as things progress for me!

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