University of California graduate admissions

Preparing

Gearing up for graduate school starts early— as soon as your freshman year. But even if you’re well along in your undergraduate studies, or already graduated, it’s not too late to develop a plan.

Student with a lab coat and goggles on holding a pipet in a lab setting.

Applying to graduate school is more than completing an application. It starts with exploring how research fits into the career you want. Here are a few pointers to help you become a competitive applicant.

Build relationships

Talk with your instructors about their courses and research and to explore ideas you’d like to tackle in graduate school. Professors can help you build connections at other universities and provide strong recommendations you’ll need for your graduate school applications.

Gain research experience

Conducting research as an undergraduate and beyond gives you a competitive advantage by demonstrating that you’re capable of the type of study graduate school requires. Ask your professors to supervise an independent project and apply to summer or year-long research programs on your campus and others.

Track your achievements

When you apply to graduate school, you will be asked to write a statement of purpose, a short essay that highlights your accomplishments, motivation and goals. Keep track of your research and activities so you’ll have a complete list of achievements when you write your essay.

Find the right programs

Stay open-minded as you investigate the many graduate programs and campuses that could be a good fit for your research interests. When you find interesting articles written by researchers in your field, look into programs offered by their schools. Visit potential campuses and meet faculty and students.

Build a strong academic record

Learn which courses will help you become a competitive applicant by seeking advice from faculty members and graduate students at your campus, in addition to faculty from programs you are considering for graduate school.

Don’t let finances be a deterrent

Many resources are available to help defray the costs of your graduate education. Plan ahead and apply for funding. Don’t let finances deter you from applying to multiple institutions and pursuing a master’s or Ph.D.

“I want to mentor Black people in chemistry, which I’m doing with my nonprofit. If you can’t see people who look like you doing science, then it’s harder for you to imagine yourself doing it as well.”
Samantha Mensah Chemistry, UCLA Mensah co-founded BlackInChem to help other students of color and women advance as chemists.
Image of student Samantha Mensah

Checklist

Follow this checklist to develop yourself as a strong graduate school candidate. Even if you are unsure about applying, following these steps can help you keep your options open. Now is the time to lay the groundwork for your graduate school application.