How to Apply to Graduate Schools

Early in your junior year 

  • Start thinking about the options for going to graduate school. Determine what types of programs, degrees, and funding are of interest to you. 
  • Start talking with your professors about possible graduate program options – the faculty can help you select a program, and they know a lot about the different possible programs around the country and the world: 
  • It is important to start a dialogue with some of your professors because you will need them to write letters of recommendation for you (they do a much better job if they actually know you). Also, consider conducting undergraduate research with a faculty member as part of your curriculum. This is great experience, for multiple reasons. 
  • If you are interested in having a research component to your graduate program, another way to discover which graduate programs are of interest to you is to look for technical papers in journals at Snell Library that are interesting to you, and see who wrote them and where they are from. 
  • Start reading about graduate programs at various schools. 

Spring semester of your junior year 

  • Look into registering to take the general subject GRE examination in the summer after your junior year (most schools require the GRE examination to get funding, if not for admission).
  • You will want to leave enough time to take them a second time, if you do not do so well the first time around. Also, you should study for the GRE examination. 
  • Contact the schools that are strong in the fields of interest to you. Ask them for more information about the programs, and find out what is required for the application. 

Summer after your junior year and early in your senior year 

  • If time and money permit, visit some schools. Call the Director of Graduate Studies (or equivalent) or Department Chair ahead of time to let the schools know you are coming and to ask them to set up a series of faculty meetings with you (they will NOT think this is an unusual request on your part). Try to arrange to meet with the professors for whom you might be interested in conducting research or taking classes from. Also, ask to meet with a few graduate students at the school to see how they like the program. 

Early in your senior year 

  • Narrow your choice down to a manageable number of schools (3-6). 
  • Start filling out the applications. Spend some time on this – neatness and organization count! 
  • You should have your applications ready to submit BEFORE December break. Early-December is an ideal time to submit the applications. However, some schools may have deadlines that are even earlier – check with each school that interests you. 
  • Contact professors who are able to write letters of recommendation for you. Make sure you give them: 
  • A copy of your transcript, your resume, and possibly your statement of purpose; 
  • Stamped, addressed envelopes for each school. Some schools also have specific recommendation forms that must be filled out; 
  • Ample time for writing the recommendation (2 weeks minimum; 4 weeks preferable). 

After you receive responses from the schools (generally February to May of your senior year) 

  • Try to visit the schools you got offers from: 
  • Some schools will provide partial support for you to come to visit after you have been accepted. 
  • If you plan to conduct research, think about the professors with whom you would like to conduct research at each of the schools to which you were accepted: 
  • If you like the school, but there is really not anybody conducting research or teaching in the areas that interest you, then it may be a mistake to go there. 
  • The faculty can help you explore these options – talk to them! 
  • Let the schools know your decision on time. 

If you have any questions (“Is graduate school right for me?”, “Is it ok to work first”, etc.), feel free to talk to the faculty at any time. We will help you go to graduate school, get a job, or do whatever else you would like after graduation. 

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering — J. F. Hajjar — Northeastern University Fall 2010 

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