Graduate School Preparation Checklist

Get ready for graduate or professional school—even while you’re still an undergraduate.

Graduate School Preparation Checklist

To Do:

  • Work hard all the way to graduation—your final grades can affect scholarship or graduate assistantship eligibility.
  • Apply for internships, which are a great way to get hands-on experience in the field you hope to enter, especially during the summer between your junior and senior years of college.
  • Review Financial Aid for Graduate or Professional Students for details about federal student aid eligibility, types of aid you can receive, and key points to consider when taking out a student loan.
  • As soon as possible after its Oct. 1 release, submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form along with any other financial aid applications your chosen grad school(s) may require. Submit your FAFSA form by the earliest financial aid deadline of the schools to which you are applying, usually by early February.

Graduate and professional students are considered independent students for FAFSA purposes, so when you fill out your FAFSA form to apply for grad school aid, you won't need to provide parent information.

  • After you submit the FAFSA form, you should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) within three days to three weeks. The SAR lists your answers to the questions on your FAFSA form and gives you some basic information about your aid eligibility, so review it carefully and make corrections to your FAFSA information if needed.
  • If you haven’t done so already, register for and take the standardized tests required for graduate school admission. Check with the graduate school programs you are interested in to see what tests they require.
  • Apply to the graduate schools you have chosen. Prepare your applications carefully. Follow the instructions, and PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO DEADLINES!
  • Well before your graduate school application deadlines, ask your advisor, professors, and/or school registrar to submit the required documents (e.g., transcript, letters of recommendation) to the programs to which you’re applying.
  • Apply for as many scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid funds as you can.
  • Familiarize yourself with the different types of financial aid available to you, including these types of federal aid:
  •  Visit graduate schools that have invited you to enroll.
  •  Review your graduate school acceptances and compare the programs’ financial aid offers.
  •  Contact a school’s financial aid office if you have questions about the aid that school has offered you.
  •  Log in to “My Federal Student Aid” at StudentAid.gov/login to see what you’ve borrowed during your undergraduate years, and keep future finances in mind when choosing a graduate school and deciding how much to borrow.
  •  Make informed decisions about student loans; our “Federal Versus Private Loans” page provides helpful information.
  •  When you decide which school you want to attend, notify that school of your commitment and submit any required financial deposit. Many U.S. grad schools require this notification and deposit by April 15.