What to do for Round Two: September edition

Preparing for Round 2

Maybe you planned on submitting your applications by the round 1 deadlines, but the summer weather was just way too nice. Or, perhaps you recently made the decision to apply to graduate school and you’re trying to figure out what to do next. Either way, the round 2 deadlines traditionally show up in December / January, so it’s time to start working diligently to meet them. We’ve included a few tips and strategies for you to make the most of these last few months to ensure a stellar application submission.

Make the Decision
You can be crippled by the decision to apply to graduate school. Many potential applicants spend time on the fence between applying versus not applying and this indecision leads to a less-than-ideal outcome. If you wait and decide to apply, you miss time that you could’ve used to prepare your applications. Make the decision to apply or not apply and start taking steps to execute either way. Remaining indecisive about the decision is a decision itself, a decision to limit your options, so be thoughtful and definitive upfront.

Test Strategies
Before you even think about how and when to take the test, make the decision about whether you are applying this year. This decision is partially based on the caliber school you are willing to accept and partially based on your confidence in your test-taking abilities. If you need to obtain a certain score to be considered for your target schools, you probably want to wait to apply until you get a baseline score that is close to your target school. If you can’t get a baseline score near your target school in time, there is no point wasting your time and effort building an application. If, however, you have confidence in your test-taking skills or are going to apply to school regardless of your score, you can get started now! Either way, plan to take the test 2-3 times prior to application submission, so build that time into your planning schedule.

School Selection
Choosing the right schools is really based on your priorities. If applying to graduate school this year is a priority, you should consider putting together a list of schools that includes some target schools, some stretch schools and a safe school. If applying to top schools is a priority, not a problem, but make sure you are willing to attend any school you put on your list – no point in applying to schools you won’t actually go to. If you’re struggling with school selection, start with the ones you know for sure and you can always add more later as you research schools. It’s much easier to start with a smaller set of schools rather than wasting time trying to determine all of your target schools before getting started.

Know your Controllables:

When the time crunch happens, you can stay up late, pull all-nighters, and otherwise do what it takes to get your application submitted, however, you can’t control everything in the process. As such, you want to get what you CAN control out of the way as soon as possible. Let’s go through a list of the items you want to get started on sooner as opposed to later:

– School Selection: Mentioned above, school selection is important because it drives your recommender invites. If you have a good relationship with your recommenders, you may be able to add more schools later, but the sooner you can lock down your schools, the better off you will be.
– Recommenders: They are kind of a controllable while also kind of a wild card because although you can choose them and give them dates, you can’t actually control when they submit. It’s recommended that you provide your recommenders with at least 4 weeks prior to submission, but it depends on how busy they are and how many recommendations you are asking them to complete.
– Resume / LinkedIn: It may seem unnecessary, but any networking you will do with students, alumni, schools or employers will likely require your LinkedIn profile or resume as a follow-up. As such, get both to a point where you feel comfortable both your resume and LinkedIn post-meeting or interview.
– Interview: If the interview process is open-invitation, schedule your interview when you’re ready.
– Transcript: Most people don’t have their transcripts and may have forgotten their GPA from college (usually it goes up as the years go on!). If that’s you, order a transcript, so you know what to report in your application.

Build in Time
We’re moving toward fall and year-end may bring a unique schedule for you. If that’s the case, and you know where the peaks and valleys of your schedule will show up, schedule those “valley” times to work hard on your application. You may need to take some vacation days, or some “time-on”, dedicated towards working on your application.

Once you’ve made the decision that you’re ready to apply begin taking these steps to make sure your process is a success. The more thoughtful and intentional you can be in the process, the better your admissions outcome will be.