Grad Apps Advising Jamboree
How do we guide undergraduates to apply to grad school? We hold a Grad Apps Advising Jamboree!
CUNY Astro does this in early September and we spend about 2 hours (usually on a Saturday morning!).
A faculty member hosts, and outlines the main tasks of applying (students have been meeting with advisors over the preceding summer and have generally been getting some things done already):
1) Make a list of schools: use Google Sheets and start with a very long list (e.g. AAS, or GradSchoolShopper, or the GRE list). Start cutting schools you're definitely not interested in. Then research the rest, using their websites. Your spreadsheet should have the schools, deadlines, what they want from you (research statement and personal statement or one combo? GRE? how many rec letters? fees?), your special notes AND names of possible PhD advisors. You're going to share this widely.
2) Approach your letter writers: ask them early if they will write for you. Once they've agreed in general, you should update them as your application process proceeds, and plan to give them at least a 2 week reminder before the first letter is due, ideally with your completed statement, cv, and transcript.
3) Write your statement of purpose: Open the doc today (also use Google docs because you're also going to be sharing this). Start writing.
4) Write your cv: hopefully you already had a workshop on this!
5) Know how you're sending your transcripts.
6) Are you going to AAS in January? Talk to your research advisor, but you probably should! Abstract deadline is mid-October--don't miss it!
7) Are you applying for an NSF GRFP? You should at least think about it--writing for the NSF will do double-duty for writing your statement of purpose, but the deadline for NSF is mid-October, so you need to balance classes and the deadline is much earlier than app deadlines.
8) GREs: regrettably, you might need to take them. Generals are often required by the university, even if the department doesn't look at them; Physics depends on where you're applying. See if your undergrad department will foot the bill.
9) Fee waivers: many institutions offer them. Check out the rules and ask. Look for resources at your undergrad school too! But you may have to pay money to apply.
Lay out a calendar for the students: what's a priority, when should it be done by? Make sure they circulate their list to everyone who can usefully comment (at CUNY we say send it to the whole faculty; people will offer personal insights, and can tap their networks with a 'heads up' that a great applicant is headed their way). Also make sure they circulate their statement to peers and some faculty. Remind them that it's a research statement, not just a statement like the one they wrote for undergrad admission.
Refer them to these lovely and excellent resources:
Rough calendar assuming you are not applying for the GRFP (dates are on or about; some years deadlines are earlier so check them!):
Aug 15: start your list of schools; register for GREs (studying for GREs is a whole other ball of wax)
Sep 15: open a document for writing your statement and jot down an outline (you could start in the summer if you want but don't start later than this)
Also Sep 15: ask your letter writers if they are willing to write for you
Sep 30: have a near final list of schools (~10) to circulate to your wide network, including ideas for your advisors. Circulate your first draft of your statement to your first readers (peers, and closest advisor).
Oct 15: have 2nd draft of statement (revised in response to feedback) and circulate to letter writers for input on draft; decide on final list of schools; submit AAS abstract
Oct 30: Final draft of statement done; start writing your cv
Nov 15: Send cv to your peers and closest advisor for feedback; start tailoring your statements for each school
Nov 30: Final draft of cv, tailored statements done. Send all letter writers a friendly reminder email with schools, deadlines (first ones will probably be in 2 weeks!) and any special notes that might be relevant for each school. Attach your final cv, a template statement and an unofficial transcript, and remind them in your email of anything extra special you want them to emphasize (they know you, of course, but we all appreciate guidance.
As deadlines arrive (Dec 15 is usually the earliest), send a reminder email to your letter writers the day before. E.g. 'Hi x, Just a reminder that letters are due tomorrow for Arkansas University of Kansas City, College of Blue Man Group, AlaskaTech and Van Buren U. Let me know if you need anything more from me. Thanks, y'
If you are applying for GRFP--that's also a long additional set of guidance (see the links above) and move these dates earlier by roughly 2 months (and/or turn around revisions faster!).