Since there are so many different parts to the application process, it can be a bit overwhelming at first.

However, if you stay organized and start early, you should be able to complete everything you need to on time. To get started, look through these tips on preparing to apply, completing your application packet, and keeping organized and timely. Also, checkout our resources to find some pre-made organizers that will help to keep (or get) you on the right track.

The Application Packet

Most applications will include a few common items whether they are submitted through mail or online. Here are some things you can expect to complete for your application packet:

Typical Requirements

  • Application form
  • Personal statement
  • Fees (Non-refundable)
  • Transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Test Scores
  • Interviews

Additional Elements

  • Campus Visits/Tours
  • Resume or CV
  • Cover Letter
  • Portfolio/Audition (Fine Arts)
  • Financial Aid Applications
  • Fellowships/Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Assistantships
  • Research Positions

Completing the Application

Here are a few things to keep in mind while you are filling out those application forms.

  • Follow all instructions. Read the application carefully before you begin to fill anything out.
  • Remember to meet the deadlines! Make sure you understand which elements are due when.
  • Fill out all the requested information, and do not leave anything blank. Incomplete applications may be denied just because an item was missing.
  • Type the application if you can. If you must complete it by hand, print neatly using black or blue ink.
  • Keep your application clean and do not bend or fold it. It will look more professional that way.
  • Proofread for spelling and grammatical errors. Ask someone else to help you with this.
  • Use reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent job or education information.
  • Check and double check your information. Make sure you have not made any mistakes in your social security number or address.
  • Don’t forget to sign and date it!

Getting Organized

Here are some tips and tricks to help you keep everything in order and get it all turned in on time.

  • Keep a copy of everything you send, for your own records. That way, if you need something later on, you will not have to spend even more time to complete it- you can simply pull it out of your file folder and mail or fax it.
  • Request application materials well ahead of time. If the materials are online, make sure to figure out exactly how to access them earlier, rather than later.
  • Make a checklist for each school you plan to apply for. Include dates where appropriate.
  • To keep yourself organized, use this handy Application Tracking Worksheet.
  • Set aside some space to keep your application materials, so you do not lose them. Folders, files, or even just a corner of your desk where the papers will stay put (and not get lost) will work just fine.
  • Create a calendar with all the deadlines for applications. Mark early decision/application dates, priority dates, recommendation letter deadlines, and late application dates, just in case. Color coding will help you separate between schools.
  • If you have not already completed your entrance exams, mark the application dates and the test dates on your calendar as well.
  • Prioritize which elements need to be completed first. The personal statement will take longer than the application, but must be sent in at the same time. You should give your professors or supervisors ample time (at minimum 3 weeks) to complete their letters of recommendation. Check how long it will take for your official transcripts to be processed.
  • Schedule time to work on each element individually. This will help you stay organized and get everything done, without cutting into your class or work time.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get the materials in the mail. Shoot for at least two or three business days before the post-mark date, or a little over a week if the application must be received by a certain date.
  • When you think everything is finished, double check and triple check your lists, and then call the school to make sure they received everything you need. Try to do this before the deadline, so that you can take care of anything that might turn up missing.

Tools for Completing the Application

Application Tracking Worksheet (Word)
Most Common Application Mistakes (YouTube Video)
Expert Admissions (YouTube Video)
Insider’s Guide To Admissions (YouTube Video)
Graduate School Dictionary (PDF)

Additional Resources