If you have plans to go to US for your postgraduate studies, the first thing you need is a comprehensive plan. If you plan to pursue your postgraduate studies in Fall next year, here is an application timeline you could follow:
March to May:
Begin researching grad schools. Shortlist 6-10 universities that you will be applying to. Thoroughly go through each university’s website and note down essential details such as application requirements, deadlines and scholarship opportunities. Request information from schools that interest you. Ask your professors or mentors to recommend good programs in your area of interest.
Simultaneously, you should begin familiarizing yourself with the GRE test. Take a GRE practice test. Your GRE score will help you determine how much preparation you’ll need to get a good score.
Finalize your list of prospective schools and programs. If you’re a student, summers will be the best time for you to begin preparing for the GRE general test or the GRE subject test; whichever is required by your university. Try to register for the test as soon as you begin studying so that your motivation and concentration does not waver.
August – September:
Take the GRE test. If you’re not happy with your scores, register for the test to re-take it.
You should also now begin drafting your statement of purpose/personal statement or other mandatory essays. The admissions section in the university website usually mentions some pointers you are expected to ruminate over in your essays.
Also, start contacting your recommenders and brief them about your field of interest and the program you wish to pursue. Let them know the deadline of your recommendation letter so that they furnish it to you before time.
Keep polishing your statement of purpose and make sure you highlight your experiences and qualifications to make yourself stand out from the rest of the applicants.
Make a checklist of all required documents – such as official transcripts, degrees, certifications, and other supporting documents. Request your undergraduate university officials for documents you do not have access to.
Keep in touch with your recommenders. Send them your CV, transcript and other supporting documents which would help them get to know of your skills better, and ultimately help them write a comprehensive recommendation.
Ask professors in your university, your peers, or your mentors to proof-read your essays. Pay heed to their advice and continue to refine your essays accordingly.
Take the GRE subject test again if you were not satisfied with your first attempt; make sure that your scores are sent directly to the universities. The ETS code for each university is mentioned on the admissions page of their website.
Most graduate programs in US have their application deadline in December. Ensure that you have completed and submitted all applications ahead of the deadline. Check and re-check before you hit the submit button of your application – sometimes minor mistakes in the application can result in a rejection. Ensure that you keep copies of every section for your records. A week after submitting your application, contact the university’s admissions office to verify that your application, GRE scores, and supporting documents have been received.