Explore different fields of study and begin to hone in on a major and topics that interest you. Take advantage of the General Education program to try out different fields that you have not previously considered.
Establish a strong GPA. Seek tutoring or other support services and talk to your professors if you are not doing as well in a course as you would like. Evaluate your study skills and develop a set of study skills that work for you.
Begin the practice of talking to your professors about things that interest you in their courses. If their field of study seems interesting to you, ask about research, careers, and graduate study to see if this might be the field for you.
Begin exploring possible research opportunities available on campus through your major or through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.
Create resume or CV and LinkedIn so you can add experiences as you go throughout your education.
Confirm original major as appropriate or declare new major that is appropriate for the field you wish to pursue.
Continue to hone study skills and achieve strong grades.
Establish opportunities to do research through classes or outside the class.
Ask professors in your field and search the web to find out how to apply to graduate school, what materials, tests, etc. are required for application and what it takes to be a competitive graduate school applicant.
Determine if graduate study is really for you and if you have the academic skills and personal characteristics necessary to succeed in a graduate program.
Take relevant, meaningful classes that prepare you in your field and those that further develop the skills needed for graduate study. Plan on taking more challenging, upper-level courses and rigorous, but realistic, course loads across the next two years of your undergraduate program. Discuss appropriate courses with faculty advisors now and in your Junior year.
Begin to explore topics in your chosen field that may hold particular interest for you.
Become involved in internship, leadership opportunity, volunteer experiences, job shadowing, and other extra-curricular activities that will make you a more competitive applicant.
Consider joining a professional association relevant to your field as a student member, or at least visiting related websites.
Become involved formally in research and/or other relevant experiences.
Plan Senior courses and appropriate experiences with faculty members.
Narrow down areas of interest within your field.
Develop a list of potential graduate programs and be sure you are looking at programs that have faculty with expertise/interest in your particular area(s) of interest.
Discuss choice of graduate programs with faculty members in your field, especially if they attended that program.
Gather information on registering and taking any required standardized tests.
Take a practice entrance test to determine what and how much you need to study. Thanksgiving, Winter or Spring breaks are good times to do this.
Build a study plan for the relevant entrance test and begin to study on a regular basis.
Explore websites and carefully check application procedures and materials needed for your target program. Check financial aid and fellowship application procedures/requirements.
Develop a timeline for your application tasks.
Discuss with advisors what you could do if you do not get into a graduate program.
Develop an appropriate Plan B. It helps to know that it will not be the end of the world if you do not get into your first choice.
Summer between Junior and Senior Years:
Continue to study for the relevant entrance test.
Register for the entrance test, if needed.
Get further research experience or be involved in other relevant experiences.
Consider research or internship summer programs offered at other colleges, especially the ones you would prefer to attend.
Take the entrance test, if needed, near the end of your summer.
Complete all necessary graduate school application forms.
Write Personal Statement and begin to polish.
Continue research studies.
Take or retake the entrance test, if needed.
Ask one or two faculty members to critique your personal statement or other application essays.
Write Statement of Purpose, if needed.
Contact, in-person if possible, recommenders and arrange to get them any forms needed. Determine a date by which they will need to submit them. Send transcripts.
Send test scores, if appropriate.
Check to see if recommendations have been sent.
Complete all applications. Submitting early in the application cycle can be an advantage.
Check to see if your applications at each school are complete.
Negotiate financial aid packages.
Let schools you have chosen NOT to attend know.
April 15 is the final decision date for most schools.
Let recommenders and your undergraduate department know where you have decided to go.
Celebrate your successes and do not let any rejections deter you from your goals.