Graduate School Application Timeline: Part 2

Application Prep

Congrats on finally coming up with a list of prospective programs! You may think back and forth every day and it’s totally normal to feel hesitated! If any new information pops up, just revise your list and trust your decisions! Now it’s time to start preparing all the application materials you need!

Check the Application Requirements

First thing first, make sure what do you need for which school. Start making an Excel spreadsheet or Word table to organize your material list. It’s very important to start building your own list and keep updating the status afterwards, especially when you apply for more than 5 schools. Better management will make your future work so much easier!

Most programs may require your undergraduate and master’s transcripts, s
tandardized test scores, CV/resume, letters of recommendation, and personal statement. Other additional materials may be writing samples or TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores.  

Standardized Tests (GRE, GMAT, or others)

Start studying as early as you can to leave time for taking the tests for more than one time and for ETS to send out your official transcripts on time. For more information, please check the ETS website.  Our Guide to Graduate School handout also provides a more detailed introduction on the tests and the preparation process.
Important tips: check the program’s website and see if they require a certain score or the averaged score of past students. If they do not mention it, make a phone call or email the graduate office/the department/your prospective professors to figure it out. Some programs have a cut-off score and some do not. Knowing their standards will help you set a realistic goal for your tests. Many people take more than one time and it’s totally understandable!


Please check our Guide to CVs and Guide to Resumes handouts to see the tips and samples:

Bring your drafts (even without a draft) to the MU Career Center to get a one-on-one revision before you upload your documents! Our career specialists are well-trained and will be more than happy to help you polish your CV/resume as more times as you want!

Important tips: 
If you are going to a research-focused program, make sure you move the “publications” section forward right after your education background. If you have not published any paper officially, make a section called “research experience” and talk about the projects you are/were involved (the career specialists can help you transform your experience into precise bullet points!). 

Personal Statement 

Some programs offer questions that they want you to answer but some do not. After checking with the program, come sit down with a career specialist to layout your first draft! It’s similar to a cover letter that you use to address your motivation and qualification as a strong candidate. Here are some useful links:

Important tips
: Schedule a one-on appointment with the MU Writing Center or upload your drafts to the Online Writing Center to get professional writing assistance!

Letters of Recommendation

The amount of the letters will vary by programs. In most cases, you’ll need 3-4 letters from your professors (“academic reference”) , advisor/mentor (not the one who helps you with class enrollment but the one who guides you through research or project development), and your supervisors at work (“professional reference”). Here’s a suggested step-by-step approach:


  1. Ask your prospective recommenders to see if they are able to write you a letter of recommendation.
  1.  If yes, send your recommenders a Word table/Excel spreadsheet with all the programs you want them to write the letter for and their DEADLINES. 
  1. Meanwhile, add your recommenders‘ contact information to the online application system so they can access your profile and upload the letter for you. 
  1. Send recommenders a kind reminder if they have not uploaded the letter yet two weeks before the deadline. 
  1. Don’t forget to send your recommenders a thank you note: Guide to Thank You 

Important tips: 
The application system will ask if you want to waive your rights to access the letter, which means you will not be able to view or make revision to the letter. Check “YES” because you want the programs to think that the letter of recommendation is reliable. Also, do not feel bad if you need to remind professors of the submission of your letter. As long as your reminder is soft, you should be fine! Professors are busy and they may appreciate your reminder.   


Make sure if the programs want an official or unofficial one. Also, each program defines “official/unofficial” differently. Here are common ways you can send out your MU transcripts:
  • Go to MyZou and request an official transcript sent by mail (it usually takes 5 days to place your order and ship the letter to the programs so please make the request EARLIER!).
  • Go to MyZou and request an official transcript sent by E-mail (some programs say they accept an electronic transcript as long as it’s sent by the school).
  • Order an electronic transcript through MyZou and upload it to the application websites yourself. 

Important tips: 
Don’t forget to order the official GRE transcripts through ETS as well! It also takes approximately 5 days so do it as soon as you receive your writing score (10 days after your test date)!All of these look SUPER SCARY and time-consuming but all your efforts will be paid-off after you receive the interview invitations and the official acceptance letter from your dreamed schools!