Goal-Setting and Calendar Planning for Grad School Applications

Grad school applications take a surprisingly long time to complete, especially when you are applying to multiple graduate programs. Each school has their own application process, including unique steps, locations to send transcripts, essays, documents, etc.

But when you take the time to understand all of the steps and get organized, you set yourself up for success (and stress reduction) for the entire process.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what you need to do if you are applying for graduate school and when to do it.

But that’s not all…

We’ll also discuss how you can outline goals and set dates on your calendar to guide you on your path to grad school application submission - and eventual acceptance!

The steps for the grad school application process:

If you read my blog post, Goal-Setting for Future SLP Grad School Applicants: How & When to Apply to SLP Grad School, then you have a little more detail about each of these steps. Head to that blog post if you haven’t read it yet, and meet me back here for a brief overview.

You might be thinking, “hmm, 7 steps? Doesn’t seem so bad!” but I promise you, the grad school application process is one of the most tedious and stressful things I’ve ever done - and many of my students say the same.

Why is the grad school application process so stressful?



It’s extremely competitive


Every school requires different documents and essay responses (and you have to apply to multiple schools because, well, it’s competitive)


These documents take a LONG time to create, edit, and perfect


Most people applying to grad school are also either (a) in a busy semester full of work, school, and a social life, or (b) working a full-time job while also balancing family and social time

This is why I recommend leaving yourself plenty of time to apply to grad school. This takes planning and preparation, though, and here’s what has worked best for my students over the past several years…

Goal-Setting for Grad School Applications

It’s important to set goals for yourself and keep these top-of-mind as you apply to grad school.

“Wouldn’t goals be the same thing as setting deadlines/outlining a timeline for the grad school application process?” No.

We outline a timeline below, but goals are important to set first. Identifying your goals helps you form the broader picture and keep it in mind through the difficult times of the grad school application process.

How to identify your goals:

To identify your goals, first consider your long-term career and personal goals. Envision your future, and work backwards to outline the path that will take you there.

Where do you want to be in 30 years? 20 years? 10 years? 5 years? 2 years?


In 30 years, I aim to be the director of rehabilitation at an inpatient rehabilitation facility at a university medical center. Part of my position will involve assisting with aphasia and brain injury research at the university medical center. (You could get even more specific here by naming that rehabilitation facility/medical center - if you have one in mind, I recommend this!)

In 20 years, I aim to be the head Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) at an inpatient rehabilitation facility, leading continuing education courses, consulting on research studies at our facility, and supporting management in hiring the best incoming staff for our team.

In 10 years, I aim to have completed at least one advanced certification related to treating speech-language disorders resulting from brain injuries, and land my dream job at an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

In 5 years, I aim to work at a medical facility and run a monthly journal club to encourage my team members’ continued interest in evidence-based practices and newly developing research in the field.

In 2 years, I aim to be in my final year of graduate school at my dream program at XYZ University, completing research in a lab specific to aphasia and/or brain injuries while looking for medical clinical fellowship positions.

Taking the above goals into consideration, it is clear that this example leans toward the medical side of speech-language pathology, and that this person should seek programs that have clinical experiences specific to medical facilities and/or aphasia/brain injuries.

Now, working toward the closest goal, 2 years, what does it take to get to that medically-focused speech-language pathology program and partake in that research?

To answer this question, this student would need to find programs that (a) are medically-focused and (b) allow for students to complete a thesis and/or be a graduate research assistant within labs. Another key piece to this puzzle is finding labs that the student would be particularly interested in within the programs.

Setting goals and working backward in this manner helps you identify the types of programs you want to apply to, which just so happens to be the very first step in the grad school application process ;)

If you need help finding the right program for you, check out the SpeechLyss blog post, How to Find the Right Grad School for You. The post identifies 5 questions to ask yourself as you research programs, and you don’t wanna miss it!

Calendar-Planning for Grad School Applications

In the Ultimate Timeline for the Grad School Application Process, I dive into great detail about exactly what to do and when to do it including specific grad school application deadlines, but here I will provide an overview of using your goals + the outline of the application process above to identify a rough timeline of creating and submitting your grad school applications.

6-8 months before due dates:

  • Research programs & begin your list of potential grad schools
  • Check application requirements for each program, and keep track of them in a detailed spreadsheet - from the very beginning!
  • Study + sign up for the GRE (if needed - you will learn whether it is required for each program as you research schools)

5-6 months before due dates:

  • Take the GRE (if needed)

4-5 months before due dates:

  • Write your resume + personal statement (creation, editing, and finalizing will take you 2-3 months in total, as schools require different things for personal statements/essays, and you will likely be working through school/work/extracurriculars while completing these items)
  • Request letters of recommendation

2 months before due dates:

1 month before due dates:

  • Submit your applications

Trust me, your stress will lower and your mind and body will thank you when you get organized early in the grad school application process!

To do that, keeping a grad school application spreadsheet of all the requirements for each school is key for success. If you need one, download this one HERE - it’s prefilled with 29 columns of information to track from each school, and will keep you organized from day 1, saving you much time and stress when application season picks up!

If you find yourself close to the wire, use this 30-day calendar to plan your exact deadlines for each of the above items.

As always, reach out with any questions! You can find me on instagram at @speechlyss_slp or email me at hello@speechlyss.com :)

Have a fantastic day!