Ideal Timeline of What to Do When

Ideal Timeline of What to Do When

Because entry into many programs can be competitive, you need to craft an application package that will get you noticed by a selection committee.

Ideal Timeline of What to Do When

  • Identify your motivations for pursuing further education: Why do you want to do this? Do the Should I get more education? quiz, seek advice from your professors and TAs, book a Career Counselling appointment.
  • Research options for further education related to your goals: Check out Career Cruising: Research and explore detailed information about careers and educational programs using this multimedia online resource. Professional organizations and associations are an excellent way to learn more about a career of interest, professional designations, and networking opportunities (e.g. memberships, conferences). For additional professional associations visit the Career Cruising website; login information and the link to the site can be found on the Career Centre home page of Experience York,, under CAREER DEVELOPMENT TOOLS.
  • Calculate your GPA: Determine whether you meet the minimum GPA requirements to apply to your preferred programs. Remember, most successful applicants will be well above the minimum.
  • Identify potential supervisors if you are going to grad school: Get advice from professors and TAs in your field, look on program websites for a list of faculty and their research interests.
  • Consider potential referees (profs who could write your reference letters): Do you have 2-3 professors who know your work well? Should you take more courses with potential referees? Seek advice from your TAs and professors.
  • Choose relevant research topics for coursework (if possible): Whenever you can, select essays and projects related to the topics you want to explore further, consider doing a directed reading course in your field, and/or a Research at York position related to your field of interest.
  • Prepare for any required exams (e.g. LSAT, MCAT, GRE etc.): Look up the website of the exam you need to take – there are often advice and resources available there, most bookstores carry preparation guides for admission exams, consider taking a prep class. Osgoode offers free LSAT classes for students in financial need.
  • Assess your portfolio/writing sample: Many grad programs ask for a writing sample (18-25 pages) so seek out opportunities to write papers in your courses to satisfy this requirement. They should be somewhat related to your research interests, or at least methodologically similar. You can submit more than one paper to meet the required page count.
  • Write required exams: Schedule your exam early enough that you can rewrite it if necessary. Avoid scheduling your exam after the application deadline.
  • Informally discuss plans/options with professors and TAs: They can alert you to programs and researchers that are most closely focused on your particular interests. Asking for their advice will let them know you are serious and they may pay closer attention to your classroom participation and assignments.
  • Finalize choice of schools/programs: This is an important decision, and once you make it, you will know when to schedule everything else that needs to be done to submit your applications on time.
  • Review application procedures: especially details concerning deadlines, fees, and personal statement.
  • Begin to compile portfolio or work on writing sample (if applicable): Talk to your professors about your need to have a writing sample for your application – they may be willing to help you select a topic, or give you feedback that will strengthen it.
  • Rewrite exams if necessary: You should have at least one exam date left before your application deadline. Consider whether or not you should rewrite the exam and improve your score.
  • Formally request references (in writing): Make sure your professor has all the details of the programs, deadlines and what needs to be done when well in advance. Include the list of terms when you took courses with them, and relevant, graded coursework.
  • Double-check dates of info sessions and submission deadlines – don’t miss these!: When you are applying to multiple programs, periodically double check deadlines and requirements in case anything changes – they do sometimes.
  • Begin working on your personal statement and CV/resumé if required: Leave lots of time to do this so you aren’t rushed.
  • Send draft of statement and CV/resumés to references: Your professors and TAs can provide valuable feedback – they know what the norms are in their fields. Seek feedback from people working in the field you are interested in if you are applying to a post grad diploma or professional program.
  • Clear up any application questions with program(s): Make sure you understand what you are required to submit or have any extenuating circumstances that might impact your application. Preview the application website carefully. Call the program only if you can’t figure it out on your own. Alternatively – attend the Graduate & Professional Studies Expo and ask a representative from the school/program for advice.
  • Order transcripts (earlier if practical): You can order your transcripts online. If you only need unofficial transcripts to apply, you can request the transcript be “issued to student” and send out photocopies but if you are asked for official transcripts, they must be sent directly to the program. Usually, you do not need to order transcripts for York programs if you are a current York student. Double check with your program if you are unsure.
  • Make final changes to application materials and double check requirements for each school: Check and double check to make sure you are providing exactly what each program is asking you to include. Come to a Personal Statement Check-Up workshop to get even more feedback on your application documents.
  • If mailing application, send as soon as possible: Most applications are online these days, but not all. If you have to mail out all or part of your application, leave more time than what Canada Post lists as the delivery time to your destination. In worse case scenarios, consider sending by courier.
  • Send polite reminders to referees if they need to submit letters, but haven’t yet: If your referees need to submit letters, you can send one follow-up email before your inquiries become problematic. Don’t ask if they have sent it yet – ask if there’s any more information they need to help them complete the letter. Don’t forget to thank them for their support.
  • Try to complete your application by now: If you aim to complete all aspects of your application at least one week in advance, you will still have time to manage any last minute complications without missing your deadline(s).

After you’ve submitted your application

Write sincere thank you messages to your referees – amazingly, this step is often forgotten.

Resources to assist you in putting together a strong application package

A Primer on Getting Into Graduate School: a list of useful tips from Eric Walters at UC Berkeley.

Writing the Personal Statement: Purdue Online Writing Lab provides this list of things to consider when writing a personal statement, including questions to ask yourself before you write.


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