Timeline of Applying American Graduate School

This post is originally published on cmu.heron.me; however, I’ve moved from there everything to here.

Start early, start early, start early. What I mean “start” is to understand and to plan, not barely to talk about it.

How early will that be? Usually, you may need more than one year to work on the whole process, and a plan is needed beforehand. Most of the American schools offer graduate programs start in Fall, while only small amount of the schools start in Spring. That is to say, if you want to apply for programs start in 2016 Fall, you may need to start working on it before the Summer in 2015.

Take my friends’ and my own plans as an example here, I am writing done the timeline we had been through within the past year. And, we were mostly focused on Computer Science programs, which may be applied to most of the Engineering programs as well.


GRE and TOEFL are needed if you’re applying programs in Computer Science or other Engineering majors. For rank top 30 schools, you may need score above 100 in TOEFL, and above around 320 in GRE. The scores will be required before the application due dates, so you may want to finish all these exams before October. If you need 5 months to prepare, then start your study in May.

Most of my friends and I failed to get the scores we want for the first time. So, we usually save enough time for ourselve to have the second or the third exam. That is, you can register two exams of GRE/TOEFL at first in case you need a seat for the second exam.

There were lots of fighters I’ve seen. People took these exams for many times, and wouldn’t give up until the last minute. I may be one of them as well.


This part is less stressful, but complex. You may have to go through the whole list of schools, and find out the ones you want to apply. Read all the details of the programs, and search every information you can online.

When you decided which ones to apply, you should start to work on filling the online application forms (which are complicated), asking for recommendation letters, and mailing required materials. You need a solid list to track everything you need while also putting your eyes on the due dates.

The due dates are different in different school programs, and they are usually somewhere between December 1st and March 15th.

Wait for the Decision

It’s a period to relax and make some final decisions. Schools are sending out their decisions from around February 1st to April 15th (only a little few of them are in May).

The only thing you have to do is to wait for the decision emails, then decide which one you would want to go eventually. Of course, you may study more about the program including their course requirements, specialties, people’s comments, and whether it fits your interests or not.

There’s a simple summary table for the things above:

I may or may not write more regarding each stage in this post. There are always some platforms we can benefit from in applying American schools, like PTT StudyAbroad (Taiwan), 1point3acres (China), and thegradcafe.com (International).

However, the point of this post is to remind people should always start early! I’ve been people talked too much but lacking any real plan or understanding, so, start early!

Originally published at cmu.heron.me, April 11, 2016.