Talk to your professors Talk to them about your interests Ask them for advice about potential programs and supervisors Ask them about their availability/willingness to write a reference Make arrangements to follow up with them as you proceed through the application process, especially if they will be writing a reference
Start shaping your plan of study Try to trace the line of thinking that links what you’re hoping to do in grad school from what you’ve done as an undergrad What are the ‘gaps’ in existing research that you’ve identified in previous work? That others have identified? Research who’s doing what where in the area you hope to study in
Research potential programs Do your homework – find out about the programs, requirements, the faculty Look at what sorts of theses have been completed in the program you’re interested in: could you see what you’re interested in doing sitting in that list? Contact potential supervisors: describe your interests and ask for advice on the suitability of the progam
Refine your program of study Write your study plan as if you’re where you want to be. Locate your research in the existing literature that frames your project – this might mean doing some additional research to ensure you’re up to date. You are not chained to the research plan you outline in the program of study -- but it should show the ability to define and outline a realistic and coherent research plan. Be aware that those reading your application may not share all of your specialized vocabulary. Draft and redraft – ask for feedback.
Complete the application process Know all the deadlines! Identify potential references early in the process, ensure that you have provided them with all the necessary documentation, and follow up with them Ensure that you have read and followed the instructions in the application meticulously – include/address everything that you are asked to and only what you’re asked to Proofread, proofread and proofread again
Getting a good reference Your references can make the difference between being one of the pack and the one that stands out Be honest with your references about what you hope they can address in their letters in terms of strengths and weaknesses, as well as other things not apparent from your transcript Make sure you have provided them with enough substantive material to equip them to write a substantive letter of reference Ensure that the dossier you provide to your references is available well in advance of the deadline