The first step in preparing to apply to graduate school is planning your academic goals and thoroughly understanding the admission process. It is important to learn about programs in your field so that you can tailor your educational experiences to enhance your fit to each program. Explore your decision to attend graduate school by networking with relevant individuals on campus, including program advisors, faculty mentors, and graduate students.


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1. Plan your academic goals

The first step in preparing to apply to graduate school is planning your academic goals and thoroughly understanding the admission process. Explore your educational and professional goals, and tailor your educational experiences to enhance your fit for graduate school.


Explore your options


2. Clarify your career plans and goals

Determine the field of study and type of degree program that you want to pursue:

  • What are your career aspirations?
  • Are you interested in an "Academic" or "Professional" program?
  • What institution is a good fit for you and your studies?

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3. Research the requirements of your graduate program

Review the admissions criteria for reaching your academic goal. Consider the following requirements:

  • What general coursework and subject preparation do you need to get into your desired graduate program?
  • What type of academic experience and research background is necessary?
  • Maintain a competitive GPA. Most graduate schools require a minimum 3.0 GPA, but you may need to maintain a higher average to be a competitive applicant

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4. Preview the campus

Preview your campuses of interest by attending graduate school fairs and scheduling informational interviews with faculty, graduate students, and staff. Check out the campus and surrounding area via a virtual tour and ask questions about how students create a healthy and balanced schedule.

  • What kind of campus vibe do you want to experience for the duration of your graduate study program?
  • What resources are available and accessible for graduate students? (e.g. housing, health services, transportation, etc.)
  • What campus and community activities (e.g. volunteer opportunities, organizations, etc.) might interest you?

Interested in gathering more data about graduate education at UCSB and your program of interest before applying? The UC Doctoral Program Statistics Infocenter provides annual campus-wide and department-specific admissions, enrollment, and alumni outcomes data.

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5. Communicate: Talk with students and graduate program staff in your field of study

Graduate students can provide valuable information about their experiences. Ask students about their research progress, academic development, and professional growth. They can also give you insight on the life of a graduate student. You may also want to speak with the Graduate Program Advisor in your department of interest.


6. Develop positive relationships with faculty

Talk to faculty in your field of interest to find out about their educational background and recommendations for graduate study. Faculty mentors can give you insight about which programs would be a good fit for your research interests and also provide letters of recommendation.


7. Participate in research programs

Look for opportunities to join a research program that would allow you to work closely with a faculty member and expand your research experience. These experiences can provide better direction towards your chosen academic and professional path. Be proactive!

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8. Prepare a timeline

The year prior to applying to graduate school is important for gathering information and materials to identify requirements and funding opportunities for the next phase in your academic journey. 

Spring before applying
Information Gathering

  • Begin researching graduate programs. UCSB has over 50 graduate programs
  • Visit university and department websites
  • Review department brochures and course offerings
  • Read faculty profiles and recent publications
  • Research examination test dates, sites, and fees
  • Get research experience

Summer before applying
Materials Gathering

  • Identify specific department deadlines and requirements
  • Contact faculty and staff at your institutions of interest 
  • Begin preparing materials (statements, letters, etc.)
  • Contacting faculty for your letters of recommendation
  • Take the required examinations (early!) 
  • Attend graduate school fairs

Fall when applying
Application Submission

  • Decide where to apply
  • Complete applications and submit materials by required deadlines
  • Ask about application fee waivers
  • Research funding opportunities