Applying to Grad School

Starting the Graduate School Process

UNH Student's reviewing materials for graduate school preparation

Career and Professional Success provides initial advising for students looking to attend graduate school.

You are always welcome to make an appointment with one of the career advisors to address your graduate school questions. 

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Planning Timetable

If you are considering graduate school, start planning early to make yourself the best possible candidate. UNH Career and Professional Success can help you explore graduate school options.

Graduate School Research and Application Organizer (Word Doc)
Graduate School Research and Application Organizer (ExceL DOCUMENT)  
Peterson's Planning Timetable 


  • Define your area of interest
  • Seek advice from professors in the field in which you are interested
  • Visit the schools to which you are considering applying


  • Maintain a high GPA
  • Earn membership in honor societies
  • Read articles from your field
  • Publish your work in the field
  • Tutor to develop your teaching skills
  • Identify, talk with, and volunteer to work with at least three of your professors, who may serve as references


  • Attend meetings/conferences or similar events in the field
  • Join the professional association
  • Contact the author of an article you find interesting
  • Contact graduate students from programs and schools in which you are interested

 Research and Other Experience

  • Participate in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) or the International Research Opportunities Program (IROP)
  • Present your work at the Undergraduate Research Conference
  • Study abroad and focus your time on coursework or experience in your field
  • Do an internship, a job, or volunteer in the field
  • Work with faculty as a research assistant or teaching assistant
  • Do an independent study with a professor

 Application Preparation

  • Prepare and take standardized tests early
  • Get to know your professors; this is helpful when you need to ask for letters of recommendation
  • Review the Web sites and application processes of the programs and schools in which you are most interested


  • Professors in the field
  • Current graduate students
  • Graduate coordinator from the programs in which you are interested
  • Admissions staff from the graduate schools in which you are interested
  • UNH Graduate School
  • UNH Career and Professional Success

When to ask for letters on recommendation

Ask people to serve as recommenders as early as possible, for example, in the early fall of your senior year (if you plan on entering graduate school in the fall following graduation).  Remember that the end of the semester is a busy time for faculty. Also, be sure to keep up with faculty you have in mind as possible recommenders, as faculty sometimes take sabbaticals or semester’s away.

Who to ask to be recommenders

The best recommenders are those individuals who know you well. Hopefully, you have spent some time getting to know those individuals from whom you plan to ask for letters. Generally, it is advised that you have at least one academic (faculty) recommender. It is preferred to ask a faculty member who has the word “professor” in their title (as opposed to a temporary or adjunct faculty member). Other ideas include:

  • someone who has earned the degree you are seeking
  • someone with an advanced degree who has supervised you in an internship, job, volunteer work, etc.
  • mentors
  • it is best to stay away from asking parents, family, and friends to write letters

How to ask recommenders

A request for a letter of recommendation should take place in person, if possible. When you ask people to write a letter:

  • explain what you need
  • talk about how this relates to your academic goals
  • tell people why you chose them
  • ask them if they are willing to write you a strong letter (this will help eliminate those who might write a lukewarm or negative letter).

If the recommender is willing to write the letter:

  • give them the deadline
  • provide the recommender with a packet of information about yourself and your application process at the time of the conversation or shortly thereafter.

Information to give recommender

The packet should include:

  • an acknowledgement of the recommender’s time and a “thank you”
  • information about how to get in touch with you (email address and phone number)
  • a short summary or bulleted list of those things you would like emphasized in the letter
  • the list of schools to which you are applying and corresponding deadlines (include the earliest deadline at the top)
  • details about letter format and where to send all letters
  • a closure that includes another expression of appreciation

The packet may contain:

  • your statement of purpose
  • your resume
  • an unofficial copy of your transcripts
  • a copy of your best work in the course (if you are asking a faculty member from which you’ve taken a course)
  • recommendation forms (be sure to type in your name, the recommender’s name, and any other information that could be filled in by you)
  • stamped and addressed envelopes

Following up with recommender

Remind your recommenders at least one week before the deadline.  Send a “thank you” note to each recommender within one week after the deadline. Lastly, once your plans have finalized (and you have decided which school you will be attending), send a second “thank you” letter that includes your final plans.