If you’re interested in attending graduate school abroad, especially in the USA or Europe, timing is key. I hinted at this before, but giving yourself enough time to put together a competitive application really is crucial. Below is a sample timeline that I used when I applied for grad school in Europe.
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2 Years Before Program Start: Explore Your Options
Although it’s not necessary to start planning for grad school 2 years in advance, it’s not a bad idea to start as early as possible. Starting now, think about what you want to study. As you begin exploring your options, be sure you identify:
…key researchers in your area. A simple keyword search on the internet should help you quickly narrow down who these people are and with which universities they are associated).
…universities that offer your desired program. Be sure you make note of the quality of the programs and universities (i.e., accreditation, ranking, etc.). It is extremely important to enroll in a program which will give you an internationally recognized degree.
1.5 Years Before Program Start: Narrow Down Your List
Once you’ve identified your shortlist of universities, visit their campuses or, if that’s not possible, attend a higher education fair in your country or a country you’re visiting (you can find a list of education fairs here and here). Education fairs are an efficient way to learn about many programs in a short time. My husband attended one of the education fairs here in Ankara, which actually introduced him to program which his internet searches hadn’t uncovered…and now it’s his #1 choice!
Once you’ve chosen your top five programs, begin researching their websites to learn more about their application process and deadlines.
IMPORTANT: Every country, state, city and university will have it’s own unique deadlines and application requirements. Be sure you check all program websites and note each program’s unique requirements.
1 Year Before Program Start: Apply, Submit, Repeat
Typically, application (and scholarship) deadlines are set anywhere from 4 to 12 months before the first day of classes. This means you’ll most likely be applying and hearing admission decisions throughout the year. In the US, application deadlines run closer to 12 months in advance, whereas in Europe, I have seen several examples of deadlines which were a mere 3 to 5 months in advance.