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Parent Category: Resources
Category: Professional Development
  1. Preliminary Selection of Schools/Programs:
    • Begin, in the fall of your junior year, considering topics that you would like to pursue in graduate school and try to enroll in courses and write research papers pertinent to those topics during your junior and senior years. This will help you to confirm your interest in the field and also prepare a sample of your research writing to include in your application packet.
    • Consider relevant factors for selecting a particular graduate program: mission statement of the program, professors who may be well suited to mentor you, professional reputation of the school, student environment, geographic location, etc.
    • Search databases (see Graduate Programs in History for several helpful links).
    • Consult professors.
    • Collaborate with classmates who are applying or recently have applied.
    • Budget for application fees, entrance exam fees, and possible travel (e.g., spending part of spring break or summer vacation visiting schools that you are considering for graduate study).
  2. Entrance Exams (e.g., GRE, LSAT):
    • Complete these steps during the summer between your junior and senior year.
    • Identify entrance exam requirements of the schools/programs to which you likely will apply.
    • Register to take the required exam.
    • Prepare for the exam by studying (the hours spent doing so can yield a huge pay check if you score well enough to receive a substantial scholarship).
  3. Finalized Selection of Schools/Programs:
    • Refine your selection of schools early in the fall semester of your senior year.
    • Refer to the guidelines for "Preliminary Selection of Schools/Programs," above, and consider how your life plans may have changed since then.
  4. Letters of Recommendation:
    • Identify professors who know you well (both in and out of the classroom, e.g., an advisor, speech team coach) and who have a reputation pertinent to the field of study you wish to pursue.
    • Request that they write letters of recommendation on your behalf, providing them with the following items:
      • Personal Statement (as required by the school to which you are applying)
      • Resume (contact the Career Services Office for assistance)
      • Letter Request Form (provided by the school to which you are applying; you must fill it out and sign it; if you have completed an online version, email a link to your professor)
      • Unofficial Transcript (simply print one from campus web)
      • Writing Sample (as required by the school to which you are applying)
      • Timeline Checklist (if applying to multiple schools, provide your professor with a clear schedule of the deadlines for each school, so these may be checked off as letters are sent)
  5. Submission of Applications:
    • Read the instructions. Follow them professionally. Avoid common pitfalls: sloppiness, exaggeration, etc. For helpful tips, read How NOT To Impress in the Application Process.
    • After finalizing all application materials (that is, having revised multiple drafts to ensure it is your best work), put them in the mail.
    • Contact your letter writers to verify they have sent their letters, too.
    • If possible, submit a few weeks in advance of the deadline, so that you can confirm that the schools have received your applications and all other supporting material prior to the deadline passing. This is especially important if you have transcripts from multiple undergraduate institutions.