Following the timeline below may increase your chances for acceptance into and funding for graduate school.
The most important thing to do is to become immersed in your courses and perform as well as you can in them. You should also attend cultural events and grapple with ideas; many scholarships are for students who are familiar with current events and have thought about how to improve the world. It’s wise to get to know professors – they can help you plan your four years and recommend opportunities. In addition, get involved in campus organizations. If you do not find an organization that interests you, take the initiative and start one. Become involved with the community through service or internships that complement your interests. Finally, take advantage of the summer – find unique and impressive work, service, and/or study opportunities. Talk with your professors, Career Services, acquaintances, and local leaders for ideas.
This year you should take challenging courses and maintain a high grade point average. Choose a major and become immersed in it, and in the process, find a mentor or two. Look into research opportunities, study abroad programs, and internships. Continue performing service in the wider community and begin assuming leadership positions in campus organizations. Try to take advantage of the summer for positive ways to earn money, serve, or study. In general, begin thinking about how you can make a unique mark.
This is an especially important year. Take challenging courses and maintain a high grade point average; work closely on an academic plan with your advisor and mentors. Do undergraduate research and present what you learned at SURF or other conferences. Become involved in Honor societies. Continue on-campus leadership and service outside Elon. If it’s an option, study abroad and/or do an internship in areas related to your interests. Document your achievements and honors in an impressive resume. Spring is the time to investigate post-graduate study, in terms of particular programs and schools and also funding opportunities like national fellowships. The summer after your third year is a good time to begin applications. Carefully prepare for and then take the necessary standardized admissions tests (e.g. GRE, LSAT, MCAT).
It all comes together this year. Maintain academic excellence and do a capstone experience in your major. Continue leadership and service. Finalize your resume. Ask faculty for references, giving them lots of information and time. Apply to carefully chosen graduate schools and apply for scholarships and/or loans. Choose a school that’s right for YOU, and feel proud of your accomplishments as you receive your diploma.