Make a Plan
Research Grad Programs
UNR Graduate Programs
Prepare for Grad School
The McNair Scholars Program provides research opportunities, financial assistance, and support with the application process for first generation, low-income, and underrepresented college students planning to pursue graduate degrees.
A Big Decision
Going to graduate school is an investment of your time, talent, and money. Before you plunge in, you need to research your options, talk openly with your academic advisers, and have an honest conversation with yourself about what you want out of graduate school. We've put together this timeline to help you explore the possibilities, weigh the costs, and make a plan.
Junior Fall: Improve your resume
- Improve your GPA. Many graduate schools look at applicants' grades from the last two years of undergraduate courses. If your GPA is an issue, it's time to pull your grades up.
- Do an internship. Most graduate schools look for well-rounded individuals with good grades and some relevant work experience on their resumes. An internship can be an excellent way to gain some professional experience in your chosen field. Visit the Career Studio to get help building up experience on your resume.
Junior Spring: Research programs and take the tests
- Research graduate programs in your field. Investigate program goals, length and location, program cost, availability of practical experience, success of alumni, and alignment with your personal career goals. Also research what tests and entrance exams are necessary for each school, as they can vary from program to program.
- Schedule your entrance exams. You may want to take these exams in the spring of your junior year so you get them out of the way (and have time to retake them if necessary) and can spend the fall filling out your applications and working on your writing samples. Be sure to research which tests are required by each individual program, as they can vary from institution to institution.
Junior Spring: Rank your choices
- Make a list. Compile a list of programs that interest you, keeping track of key information, contacts you've made, and application deadlines for each.
- Be proactive. Once you know your top choices of programs, don't sit back and wait for them to come to you. Be proactive. Call the graduate program office at each school and ask to set up an appointment to speak with the chair of the department (or their assistant) to discuss the program in greater detail.
Senior Fall: Work on applications
- Request transcripts. Get your transcripts from all your post-secondary education, including an up-to-date transcript for your current institution. Be prepared to have transcripts from study-abroad and other institutions that transferred credits.
- Ask for references. Line up recommenders and provide them with the information they need to write a complete reference.
- Schedule entrance exam retests. If you weren't happy with your scores or decided to give yourself more time to prepare, you can take your entrance exams in the fall. (Some exams offer multiple test dates in the fall, enabling you to retake your exams again if necessary.)
- Fill out your applications. Take your time, read directions carefully, and check and re-check your applications to ensure they are complete and error-free. Visit the Career Studio, the Writing Center, and your academic adviser as you revise and perfect your essays and other application materials.
Senior Spring: Time to decide
- Review your choices. This is when acceptance letters begin to arrive. If you have applied to and been accepted at multiple schools, you may want to pay another visit to your top choices. Talk about your plans with a trusted faculty member or a career adviser.
- Fill out the FAFSA.
- Make a decision. Notify the school of your acceptance. As a courtesy, tell the other schools that you are declining their offers.
- Prepare for the move. If you'll be relocating for graduate school, start researching housing options in your new location. Can you afford to live alone, or will you need to find a roommate? Does the school offer assistance with housing or pairing graduate students as roommates? If so, call on those resources.
Adapted with permission from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder 2013.