Graduate School Preparation Checklist

In your 1st year:

  • Work hard to get mostly A’s and B’s in all of your major classes (and science and mathematics too). A GPA of 3.5 or higher will help you be a competitive applicant.

In your 2nd year:

  • Get involved as an undergraduate research assistant.
  • Find out what courses are not only required but beneficial for graduate school admission and work them into your course plan. This can include extra courses such as statistics, computer programming, and other higher-level science courses in physics, biology, and/or chemistry.
  • In the fall, research REU and internship programs
  • Over the winter break, prepare your REU or internship applications. Be sure to ask your professors for recommendation letters two weeks before the deadline.
  • In the Summer between your second and third year, work at an REU, internship, or at your university as an undergraduate research assistant.

In your 3rd year:

  • In the fall, research REU and internship programs
  • Continue working as an undergraduate research assistant
  • Look into the possibility of working as a TA for a lab course in your department, a paid position
  • Over the winter break, prepare your REU or internship applications. Be sure to ask your professors for recommendation letters two weeks before the deadline.
  • In the spring, start GRE preparations, narrow down your choice of graduate schools, and take the GRE.
  • In the Summer between your third and fourth year, work at an REU, internship, or at your university as an undergraduate research assistant. Research graduate fellowships (sponsored scholarships) in your field of study.

In your 4th year:

  • Continue working as an undergraduate research assistant
  • Look into the possibility of working as a TA for a lab course in your department, a paid position
  • In the fall, retake the GRE if necessary and begin working on your graduate school applications. If possible, attend a graduate school expo such as the ones held at Purdue University, NCSU, The Ohio State University, USC, or The University of Utah.  Investigate professors at the schools that you would like to work with and reach out to them to see if they would be willing to sponsor your application. Watch your application deadlines carefully and be sure to ask your professors for recommendation letters at least two weeks in advance. Submit everything in advance of the deadline—possibly as early as November (most deadlines are between November and February).
  • If you are accepted into a graduate program, congratulations! Inquire if the department will sponsor your trip to visit campus. Even if not, it is a very good idea to visit the department and meet with potential advisors and fellow graduate students. The campus visit is even more important if you are accepted to more than one school.
  • When you visit a university and talk with current graduate students involved in “lab groups” (or who simply work with the same advisor), see this article with important questions to ask to help you get a good idea about the group’s work environment.

Next, Decide where to Apply