Apply to Graduate School
Prepare to Apply to Graduate School
Get Ready To Apply
You’ve decided that graduate school is right for you and where to apply. Now, continue to prepare yourself academically if relevant, research the programs’ application processes, including rolling and final deadlines, begin to gather strong recommendation letters, and take required exams.
Strong undergraduate academic preparation is essential to succeed in graduate school. Key skills for success include critical thinking, analytical abilities, research abilities, written communication, verbal communication, time management, self motivation, and self discipline.
Graduate schools require a strong undergraduate GPA, and you will be asked to submit a transcript with your application. Be sure to investigate what courses are prerequisites for admission to the programs you wish to enter. Departmental academic advisors or Student Support Services can help you plan your academic schedule or provide support if needed. MIT faculty in your field of interest can also provide graduate school advice.
- UAAP Learning to Learn (for help improving academic performance)
- MIT Student Support Services (S^3)
- Office of the Dean for Graduate Education
Graduate schools will be looking for demonstrated interest in the field you are planning to study. Gaining research (especially important for PhD candidates), job, internship or volunteer experience in the field, in addition to what you have studied as an undergraduate or Masters student, will help you build a competitive application. Actively participating in relevant student organizations can also demonstrate your interest in the field.
- MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)
- Finding an Internship, Finding a Job
- Volunteer! MIT Public Service Center
- MIT Student Groups
Setting a Timeline for Your Graduate School Application Process
The graduate school application process is strenuous. Each school has different deadlines and requirements, so stay organized from the very beginning by creating spreadsheets or other tracking methods to ensure you meet deadlines and do not neglect any application details. This general timeline will help you set an initial outline for your process; an abbreviated version is included below.
- Request or download application forms during the summer one year prior to when you hope to matriculate. During the fall, begin filling them out and organizing your packets to mail. Make sure that you know exactly what each school wants.
- Most packets will include an application, an application fee, an essay or statement of purpose, transcripts from ALL previous postsecondary education, letters of recommendation, standardized exam scores, and financial aid applications.
- Apply early! Some schools operate on rolling admissions, but most review applications in the order in which they are received.
General Graduate School Application Timeline
Two years prior to application year: (starting early can only help)
- Explore Graduate School
- Begin researching schools.
- Plan for cost of applying (application and standardized test fees)
One year prior to application year:
- Begin or continue researching programs.
- Begin researching scholarships and fellowships to help you pay for school.
- Get federal and institutional financial aid information.
- Sign up for and begin reviewing for the standardized test you will be taking.
- Attend related events offered by the GECD and graduate school information sessions
- Request applications.
- Develop your personal timeline for applying. KNOW THE DEADLINES!
- Request letters of recommendation.
- Prepare your resume. Have it reviewed by a GECD counselor.
- Begin or continue to collect information about national and school-based fellowship programs, and their required application materials.
- Take the standardized test required for your program if you haven't already.
- Write your statement of purpose and have it reviewed.
- Request OFFICIAL transcripts.
- Complete financial aid and scholarship forms.
- Think about alternatives to graduate school.
- Finalize all application packets.
- Contact your recommenders and kindly remind them of the deadlines for your application.
- Mail your application packets.
- Follow-up and make sure that each school has received your application packet and that it is complete.
Interviews and post-application period:
- Prepare for any interviews you may have. (Arrange a GECD Mock Interview for practice.)
- Complete and mail your financial aid forms (both federal and institutional).
- Arrange to visit each department you have been admitted to.
- Figure out your financial situation. This will help you decide where you will go to school.
- Accept and decline offers in writing and/or by phone as soon as you have made a decision.
- Write a note to your recommenders, thanking them and letting them know where you will be next year!
Most graduate programs require completion of a standardized exam such as the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT. Ask the programs you are interested in what exam scores are accepted, and what the typical range of scores is for admitted students.
Be sure to study in advance for these tests, which can involve elements that you may not have learned earlier in your academic career. You can take preparatory courses or study on your own with books or online materials including practice tests. Because the scores are valid over a couple of years, you can take these exams when you are feeling most prepared. Many students, even if postponing graduate studies, will elect to take the exams while still undergraduates, as it helps to be in the habit of studying.
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
- Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
- Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
- Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
Recommendations from full professors and tenured faculty who are familiar with your academic work have the most impact, vs. letters from TAs or employers. Three recommendations are commonly requested, but check with the individual program for details.
How and when do you ask for recommendation letters? You’ll want to prepare in advance for this, building relationships with potential recommenders over the course of your academic career. Read How to Ask for A Recommendation Letter for tips and timeline.
To organize your letters, you may want to use a dossier service, such as Interfolio, or ask the recommender to send them in the manner required by that particular application. Law schools require the use of Credential Assembly Services for this purpose. If you are a prehealth student, you can use the MIT Prehealth Advising Credential Service.
Grad School Letters of Recommendation, tips for recommenders
Recommendation Letter Services(collect and distribute letters of reference)
- General dossier service: Interfolio
- Law School Credential Assembly Service
- Health-related schools: MIT Prehealth Credential Service
Programs and Events
GECD Career Services offers related programming in Fall and Spring; visit our online calendar and register for events through CareerBridge by clicking on Workshops Career Fairs and Events.