Grad School Resource Center

Discover valuable resources to assist you in your program search and decision-making process.

Getting Started

7 Tips to Stay Organized During Your Grad School Search

January 2023

Congratulations! You’ve decided to go to grad school! For most people, this was a decision that came with great thought, a few lists of pros and cons, and some budgeting calculations. It may require some life compromises as you embark upon this journey, in the hopes that it will pay off personally, professionally and financially.

Now that you’ve made the decision to go to grad school, you may feel slightly overwhelmed at the thought of what comes next: How do you get from deciding to pursue a graduate degree to enrollment?

Use these tips to keep you organized and navigate the process:

  1. Be a list maker. These can be done on a spreadsheet or with organizational tools available on a search site like
    1. If you don’t have a clear idea regarding your field of study, write down three fields of study that you think would be the most beneficial to your goals. It may seem obvious, but there are many specialized degrees and more than one may apply to your situation.
    2. Write down three top priorities for going to grad school. Some examples could be price, location, online, in-person, full time, part time, research based, nonthesis, test optional, etc.
    3. Write down three “dream” schools that you would like to go to.
  2. What do you want to do with your graduate degree? Start your preliminary search based on your interests and goals. Creating a custom digital profile on a search site like will help match your interests with programs that want students with your qualifications.
  3. Start with what best fits you. A grad program search service like will provide program recommendations so you can start investigating whether they meet your list of priorities as well as whether you meet their list of qualifications.
  4. Communicate. Don’t be afraid to reach out to admissions advisors at programs you are interested in.
  5. Back to the lists.
    1. Narrow down your program choices to a manageable list you feel comfortable applying to.
    2. Keep track of the deadlines of all programs you want to apply to by creating a spreadsheet or use the organizational tools. If you don’t have access to that, put them in your calendar with alerts.
    3. List all of the documentation you will need to gather, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, statements of purpose, test scores, and/or personal statements.
    4. List the names of people you can solicit for letters of recommendation. Remember it’s important to formally ask and provide plenty of time to allow them to write a proper letter on your behalf. Make sure you provide the information on where to send the letter, as it isn’t standard practice for you to see any letters of recommendation.
  6. If you are required to take a standardized test, such as the GRE® test, it’s important to give yourself enough time for prep classes, as well as scheduling your test early enough so that your scores are submitted on time. Take into consideration that test scores are sent via the testing company itself, not you personally, so make sure they work with your deadlines.
  7. Keep track of which programs you apply to and then sit back and wait for replies, and (hopefully) acceptances.

The bottom line

Consider the act of staying organized while grad school searching and applying as practice for when you are actually in grad school and being organized is a must. The good news is that online platforms such as make the process easy and streamlined.

Related Resources

When Should You Start Planning for Grad School?

If your future plans include grad school, start the research process sooner rather than later.

How to Choose Your Preliminary Program List

Once you’ve decided to go to grad school, choosing the right program is the first step on this life-changing journey.