So You Want to go to Grad School? The Ultimate Checklist

November 15, 2022

Created by Bud Gankhuyag, admissions counselor at Columbia University

1. Speak with mentors/advisors in your desired field

Sample questions to ask:
- I’ve been thinking about going to grad school in your field. What would you say are the most important factors when making this decision?
- Do you have any programs in mind that could particularly suit my interests, or any faculty?
- Where are the major literature and research interests in the field currently at and possibly heading in the future?
- Do you have any other advice for me?

2. Create an application schedule

- Budget a minimum 8-10 months of preparation before application deadlines (not desired start term). One year is ideal.
      - Look up deadlines and plan backwards
- Budget a minimum 3 months to study for standardized tests. For LSAT and MCAT, 6 months.

3. Research schools and programs

- The program fit will depend on how your interests align with that of the faculty and curriculum
- Reputation of the university < Reputation of the program
- Factors of location and lifestyle are important but secondary

4. Secure recommendation letters

-Every program will request 2-3 recommendation letters from professors and/or supervisors

5. Plan a 1-2 year grad school budget

- Application costs
      - Test registration, application fees, transcript delivery fees, enrollment deposit
- Tuition
      - Review federal loan opportunities if you qualify. Remember fafsa?
      - Research scholarships, grants, and fellowships
            - From the program/school/
            - From outside orgs
      - Consider how much savings you would be able/willing to put toward in your graduate studies
- Living expenses
    - What skills and experience can help you make a living while you study?
            - Your grad student status can also help open new opportunities

    - What opportunities exist on campus?
             - See if your department or undergraduate counterparts hire TAs
             - Look for office/research assistantship programs
                    - Check job listings
                    - Contact your academic director

6. Prepare for your program!

- Unless your program is highly technical/professional and the material lies behind closed doors, it never hurts to...
      - Re-read major books
      - Read new book
      - Peruse literature reviews and recent research in your field

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