Gray pencil lying on yellow background, checkboxes aligned with 9-7 months out

Grad Admission Checklist: 9–7 Months From Applying

Planning to apply to grad school? Part two of this series covers months 9–7 of the 12-month timeline leading up to submitting your graduate applications.

Welcome to the second installment of the Graduate Admission Checklist series on what to do in the 12 months leading up to submitting your grad school application(s). This portion covers nine to seven months before applying. As previously discussed, graduate school is not something to take lightly. It involves a major investment personally, intellectually, socially, emotionally, and financially. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to do your due diligence and get all the information you want and need. And read through to the end to find your way to part three and plan your next steps! 

9 months before applying

  • Start planning some campus visits. It’s one thing to review a website, read printed materials, and communicate with admission office staff on the phone or via email, but it’s quite another to actually visit a campus in person. Most institutions offer a variety of campus visit programming, usually described on their website. 
  • Start studying for any standardized tests required as part of the application process. Depending on the program, most graduate school admission committees will require the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT. In addition, an international applicant will most likely be required to take a test to demonstrate their level of proficiency in the English language.
  • Utilize online materials to help you prepare for these tests. You’ll most likely learn about these materials from the Educational Testing Service, the Graduate Management Admission Council, the Law School Admission Council, and the Association of American Medical Colleges. These organizations have preparation materials available on their websites. Other organizations such as Barrons, Kaplan, Peterson’s, and The Princeton Review offer test preparation classes. In addition, you can go to your local bookstore and find a host of printed materials and study guides.

Pro tip: If you can afford to visit an institution more than once, make your first visit unannounced. This will help you get a feel for what the institution is really like. How you’re treated as a stranger can be very revealing. However, if you don’t have the time and/or funds to do more than one visit, you may want to wait to go until you have started the application process. In addition, you may not have the financial resources to make a campus visit at all. If so, be sure to take the virtual campus tour that is offered on most admission websites. 

Related: Campus Visits: Not Just for Undergrads!

8 months before applying

  • Now it's time to do additional research on your options. One area to look into is the type of press your prospective grad schools receive. There are a few ways to find this out: one is to go to the website and look for a link that might read “(institution name) in the news” or “press coverage of (institution name).” Or just use a search engine and look for press coverage. Conducting this type of search will yield more news clips than would be found on an institution’s website, as institutional websites tend to accentuate only positive media coverage.
  • Read the school’s institutional and student-run newspapers. In some cases, you may have to ask for access to these, and in other cases, you can view them freely on the website. This allows you to review both external (press) and internal (institutional/student) perspectives (faculty, research, etc.), which you won’t find in admission or other promotional information.
  • Look for rankings of institutions offering the graduate program you're seeking. Various organizations provide annual or biannual rankings that can be useful to you. However, remember: rankings and reputation are two different things. Organizations that do rankings may try to provide reliable information, but those actually doing the data gathering, analysis, and dissemination of the rankings have biases of their own. Oftentimes they have never stepped foot on campus. Also, rankings provide a source of revenue for the organizations participating in them. One ranking differs from the next. And by the time you enroll in graduate school, the ranking of your options will most likely have changed. Be careful about how much you allow a ranking to influence your final decision about where to apply to grad school. 

7 months before applying 

  • Contact current students at the institutions on your list. If you know someone who's attending, contact them and ask some questions. If not, ask the admission staff if they can put you in touch with a current student or two. Many admission offices have student volunteers who are willing to talk with prospective students. If you can ask the same questions for each of your options, you'll have more information to include on your research spreadsheet. 
  • At this point, do a second evaluation of your options, considering what you have discovered from external and internal press, rankings, and conversations with students. Remember, you aren't ready to make your shortlist yet. You can, however, change your spreadsheet evaluations at any time. Something you learn from the press or rankings about an option you already eliminated from your list may cause you to place that option back on. 

Related: Essential Grad School Search and Application Timeline

The grad school admission process is no joke. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of research to do, a lot of requirements, and a fair amount of stress involved. But if you keep yourself organized and on top of the process by breaking it down into these easy-to-follow monthly tasks, it will be a lot easier and more effective in the long run. Keep moving forward with your planning with months 6–4 for the third installment of this four-part series.  

Ready for your next steps? Keep planning for grad school applications with the 6–4-month installment of the 12-month checklist, or check out the author at his website

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Donald C. Martin

Dr. Donald C. Martin is an expert in the fields of enrollment management, student affairs, and higher education administration. From 1980–2008, he managed divisions including admission, financial aid, student development, registration/advising, and career, disabled, and international services. He has been employed by some of the best colleges and universities in the United States, including Columbia University (Teachers College), University of Chicago (Booth School of Business), Northwestern University (Medill School of Journalism), and Wheaton College (in Illinois). Along with a team of dedicated professionals, Dr. Martin grew both the applicant pool and the enrollment yield at each institution he served. In addition, students’ ratings of their experience at those institutions improved dramatically during his tenure.

Having visited over 60 countries on every continent, Dr. Martin has worked with thousands of prospective and current students of varying nationalities, backgrounds, beliefs, interests, and goals. He continues his work with students and educational organizations worldwide, speaking on college and university campuses and also at graduate school fairs, forums, and education conferences. Dr. Martin's focus is on the value of education and negotiating the graduate school experience from start to finish, dispelling the myths that hold many back from earning a graduate degree and financing their graduate education. In addition, he provides one-on-one coaching services for graduate/business school applicants. Learn more at


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Jeff Parsons

Jeff Parsons


Thank you so much for this valuable information about these opportunities. I truly appreciate the CollegeXpress communications and use them to keep my high school seniors informed about their opportunities!

Makiyah Murray

Makiyah Murray

High School Class of 2021

The college application process has been a stressful one, but CollegeXpress has eased some of that stress with its readily available college resources. At the beginning of the process, I frequently used the college search feature, and now that I’m almost done applying, I’ve started using the scholarship search. Both of these resources have made it easier to find relevant information.

Tinuola Dada

Tinuola Dada

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2015

I am very excited to be this year's recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship. This scholarship will bring me ever closer to my academic and professional goals. CollegeXpress has been an exceptional resource to me, and I recommend it to all rising seniors as they begin to navigate the college application process.

Rana Slosberg

Rana Slosberg

Slosberg College Solutions LLC

My favorite part of CollegeXpress is the 800+ lists which have all kinds of hard-to-find information. These lists are helpful when I’m creating college lists, and I also use them to give students a feel for a particular college or university.



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress really helped me by letting me know the colleges ratings and placements. They gave me accurate information on my colleges tuition rates and acceptance. They even let me know the ration between students and faculty and the diversity of the college. Overall they told me everything I needed and things I didnt even think I needed to know about my college and other colleges I applied for.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

SUNY Morrisville

Morrisville, NY

Angelo State University

San Angelo, TX

Pace University

New York, NY