Preparing for graduate school

If you're considering graduate school, we're here to guide you from start to finish. As you identify programs of interest, develop a strong application, and make choices, our team is available to meet with you for individual advising. 

  • Considering grad school?

    Graduate school is a significant investment and commitment requiring time, work, and money. With this in mind, many students visit our office as they consider whether to pursue graduate school immediately following graduation or in the future. 

    • Reflect on your reasons for attending graduate school and speak with a trusted advisor or mentor for feedback. 
    • Identify programs in your chosen field and learn more about the quality of the programs and the qualifications of their typical candidates.
    • Investigate how much time your program will require and sources of funding. 
    • Develop an understanding of the application process, including required entrance exams, essays, letters of recommendation, and other supporting documents. 


    Our team offers advising for students considering or applying to graduate school at any stage of the process. Schedule an "Applying to grad school" appointment in Handshake to connect with us one-on-one.

  • Timeline

    You may begin preparing for graduate school earlier, but the following timeline will help you tackle the process step-by-step and on time. 


    • Research potential schools and identify deadlines and application requirements from specific schools you are interested in attending.
    • Prepare for required entrance exams.
    • Take entrance exams now or in fall.
    • Begin drafting application essays and your Statement of Purpose.
    • Consider which faculty members to ask for letters of recommendation.



    August-early September

    • Finalize your list of prospective schools.
    • Familiarize yourself with the professors who share your research interests at each school.
    • Consider visiting schools and meeting with school representatives.
    • Ask faculty members for letters of recommendation.
    • Research sources of financial aid.
    • Take entrance exams if you did not during the summer


    October-early November

    • Check and record the due date for each application.
    • Have application essays critiqued (by your faculty, grad students you’ve worked closely with, the Writing Center, and/or career counselors).
    • Practice answering admissions interview questions, if applicable. 
    • Research scholarship, fellowship and assistantship opportunities; complete financial aid documents.
    • Submit materials for early decision if applicable.
    • Arrange for your official transcript to be sent to each program you apply to and request that the Registrar hold your transcript until the Fall Semester grades are in (unless application is due earlier in December).



    • Submit all application materials to schools.
    • Keep copies of every section for your records.
    • Verify that letters of recommendation have been sent.
    • Many schools will send a message upon receipt of each application – track yours.



    • Continue visiting schools if possible.
    • Ensure your application is submitted by the appropriate school deadlines.
    • Depending on your field, start planning for the admissions interview.
    • Visit schools you’ve been accepted to and discuss acceptances and rejections with a faculty member, your mentor, or career counselor at UVA.
    • Respond to all offers – both accepts and turn downs. Turning an offer down politely could help you if you interact with those from other schools later as colleagues.
  • Statement of Purpose

    One major component of the graduate school application is the Statement of Purpose essay. The statement is usually a one to two page document which outlines your motiviations for attending graduating school, relevant experiences, and plans for the future. You'll write about your research and professional interests, how your background qualifies you, and what interests you in the program.

    Get started on your first draft by brainstorming answers to these basic questions. Once you've completed your first draft, have it reviewed by a trusted faculty member, graduate student, mentor, or career advisor. 

    Tips for writing your statement

    How to Write a Statement of Purpose: Know what grad schools are really asking

    9 Steps to Write a Great Statement of Purpose for Grad School

    Statement of Purpose: Do & Don't


  • Resources

    As you prepare for graduate school, review these resources and meet with a career advisor if you have any questions.

    Should I go to grad school?:
    A Guide for Potential Grad Students
    5 Questions to Make Sure It's the Right Move

    Identifying programs of interest:
    Peterson's Guide
    How to choose a school

    Asking for letters of recommendation:
    How to ask for one
    Dos and Don'ts for requesting a recommendation letter

    How to contact prospective faculty advisors:
    Contacting Potential PhD Advisors
    Advice for Prospective Research Students

    Graduate school funding:

    Funding options