Graduate School Application Process

Your interest and success with a particular discipline may lead you to personal satisfaction and the chance to broaden your experience and expertise in graduate school.  Today, graduate school opportunities throughout the world are diverse.  If you have interests in a specific field of study, exploring the options of attending graduate school will be beneficial.  In addition, many careers require advanced degrees: medicine, social work, law, higher education, specialized research, etc.

The application process varies on the school and program you are applying to. Use these application tips to help you throughout the applying process. Schedule an appointment with Career Design to discuss graduate options, as well.

Application Timetable

Junior year/Summer going into Senior year September/October of Senior Year
  • Start to identify programs of interest
  • Contact programs to request catalogs/applications or bookmark web sites for further review
  • Make note of deadlines
  • Determine standardized test requirements
  • Prepare for standardized tests
  • Continue to research programs
  • Take appropriate standardized tests
  • Write draft of personal statement
  • Research financial aid, assistantships and scholarships
  • Request letters of recommendation from faculty members and supervisors
  • Attend graduate school events on campus
November/December of Senior year January/March of Senior year
  • Finalize personal statement; have it critiqued by a faculty member or career coach
  • Complete applications
  • Submit requests to have official transcripts sent from the Records Office; time receipt to graduate programs for AFTER your application arrives
  • Submit requests to have your placement file sent; time receipt for AFTER your application arrives
  • Continue to research financial aid opportunities
  • Submit applications at least one month before deadlines; earlier for programs with rolling deadlines.
  • Check to ensure all materials have arrived
  • Contact schools regarding the opportunity for a visit/interview



Common Application Components

  1. Application
  2. Nonrefundable fee
  3. Personal statement
  4. Letters of recommendation
  5. Transcripts
  6. Resume/CV
  7. Entrance exams (depending on the program)
  8. Interview (depending on the program)
  9. Financial aid applications

Application Forms

  • Follow instructions carefully and accurately while completing all requested information.
  • Tailor your communication to the specific aspects of the graduate program.
  • Complete the forms on-line whenever possible, ensuring a neat and attractive appearance.  
  • Include all requested documents and materials: résumé, fees, personal statements, etc.
  • Always print or make copies for your records before sending.

Essay/Personal Statement

  • Most graduate schools will tell you what they want addressed in the Personal Statement. Be sure to address all points!
  • Admissions officers read thousands of personal statements during application season; make yours stand out!  
  • Get personal! Admissions officers are trying to learn who you are, what you will bring to their program, and why you’re different than other applicants. Consider addressing things like your professional goals, academic interests, related experiences and research experience
  • This is an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills, motivation, energy level, creativity, and commitment
  • Invite faculty members and Career Design staff to review and critique your personal statement

Letters of Recommendation

  • Select recommenders who know you well enough to write detailed letters on your behalf and who can comment on your capacity to do graduate level work
  • Plan on asking three individuals to act as references for you unless the graduate school application indicates otherwise
  • Provide a copy of your resume to recommenders so they are able to get a good sense of your skills and background
  • If it needs to be uploaded to a URL, give them the web address when you ask them to provide you with a letter
  • Allow the recommender ample time to complete your letter and always follow up to be sure it has been done
  • Be sure to thank those who have written letters for you

Letters of Recommendation


A transcript is the official record of all your courses, grades, and degrees awarded. Reference the SUNY Geneseo Registrar's office to learn how to request your official transcripts.


A resume or CV may be a supplemental part of your application process that will allow the committee to gain a better understanding of your involvements both academically and professionally. Visit our resume resources for guidance and tips.

Entrance Exams

Different programs require different standardized admissions tests, and you will want to check each program's individual requirements. Not all tests are offered at the same frequency, and you will want to check to see when and where they are offered in your area. Additionally, you will want to know how much each test costs along with how long scores will be valid for. There are numerous resources available to help you in preparation for these tests including formal courses (such as Kaplan), study guides and practice tests. You will want to make sure you are as prepared as possible. Scheduling your test well in advance of application deadlines, along with setting aside time to study before you take your test is important. Additional resources for test prep can be found at, The Princeton ReviewPeterson's Guide and Kaplan Test Prep.

Questions? Information about tests can be found below.


Many graduate programs will not require an interview, however, for those that do, the interview is another way to share your experiences, reasons for applying and your time to ask questions. You should present yourself professionally and be especially prepared to talk about your research or related work experiences and career goals. You will also want to know as much as possible about the specific program, and be ready with well-informed questions about it. They will be looking for a good "fit" between you and the program. Visit our interviewing guide for resources and tips.

Financing Your Education

Graduate school is a big financial investment and learning more about the options available to you financially is important. More information can be found under financing your education.

Graduate Admissions Deadlines/Testing

It is imperative to know deadlines and related time requirements for submitting applications, test scores, financial aid information and other materials for each school, as deadlines vary by institution.  It is also critical to check with each school to ensure all materials have arrived before the deadline. 

  • NOTE: Be aware that financial aid deadlines are usually earlier than the comprehensive application material.  Many programs will not communicate these deadlines without your proactive inquiry.

Let us know how we can help you:


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SUNY Geneseo
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