PreGraduate and PreProfessional Advising

An undergraduate education prepares students to think critically and enter multiple careers. It might also prepare you to start the work of creating knowledge or give you a foundation to enter a profession. Continuing your education in a program within a graduate or professional school is an opportunity to gain greater skills, experiences, and professional development. But you might have a lot of questions about such a path.

You might wonder if graduate or professional school is right for you. Students considering applying often need more information about costs, funding options, or even which programs to have on their list. Or you might know you want to continue your education, but you want help navigating the application process. Students might need guidance about timelines, how to prepare strong application materials, or how to make a decision after offers are extended. This webpage is a launching pad to get you started.

Ways to Explore Your Options Each Year

Paths to post-graduate education can look very different. Explore what students interested in applying to graduate or professional school programs may take each year or semester—or even after graduation from WashU—below.

Talk with professors about their research. Engage with academic advisors. Read articles about current events. Ask questions. Be curious. As a first year or sophomore, now is the time to learn about opportunities like the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program and Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellowship Program, explore undergraduate research opportunities and national scholarships and fellowships, and consider attending the "Exploring Grad School" Workshop in the spring to learn about options and ways to decide if postgraduate education is right for you!

Explore Opportunities

As a junior, now is the time to talk with a pregraduate advisor about your goals. Consider how your coursework, relationships with professors, research or study abroad experiences may have shaped what you want to do. Then work with an advisor make a tentative plan for the next two years to support your path to graduate or professional school. You may also connect with a professor and/or graduate students in your field(s) of interest to learn about specific opportunities or programs, and attend the "Exploring Grad School" Workshop in the fall to become familiar with the application process, timelines, methods for collecting strong letters of recommendation, and writing a powerful statement of intent.

Meet with an Advisor

Continue to engage in conversations with faculty about your academic path and compile a list of possible post-graduate programs of interest. Declare your intent to write a senior thesis in your major department. Seek opportunities to support your goals, apply for research funding through the Office of Undergraduate Research or register to present your work at symposia or conferences, and finally, attend WashU's Junior Jumpstart held in May of each year.

Learn about Junior Jumpstart

Register and prepare to take the GRE and/or other standardized tests required for your particular program of interest. Reach out to faculty to secure letters of recommendation. Begin writing your Statement of Purpose, and seek feedback from valuable resources like faculty, pregraduate advisors, and WashU's Writing Center. Review deadlines for scholarship and fellowship applications. Firm up your list of schools and programs and understand what will be required of you during the application process; and don't forget to reach out to advisors and mentors with questions.

Prepare Materials

Common Application Materials


While some professional programs might use a centralized application system, most graduate programs will not. We recommend using Interfolio-the premier academic dossier and credential service for applying to graduate school or postgraduate position-to help you collect application materials to submit.

Explore Interfolio

Letters of Recommendation

Be strategic about whom you ask to write your letters of recommendation. Seek professors and advisors who know you and your work well; individuals that can speak to your interests, abilities, and characters. Consider how to approach possible writers and ideally when to ask.

Learn More

Statement of Purpose

Unlike medical or law school, statements of purpose for PhD programs are rarely about telling the story of how and why you became interested in your field. Instead, the essay is a relatively straightforward document that communicates your research experience (2-3 paragraphs); your research ambitions (1-2 paragraphs); and why the particular program to which you are applying is suitable for your research goals (1 paragraph).

Statement of Purpose Template

Resume or CV

Most internships, research opportunities, and full-time jobs require you to submit a resume and cover letter as part of your application. WashU's Center for Career Engagement provides resources for students to help craft or refine your resume and cover letter, or work with a pregraduate advisor to discuss what is best to include in it to support your postgraduate goals.

Prepare Resume


WashU has engaged with Parchment, Inc. to provide online transcript ordering. Current and former students, as well as third parties, must request transcripts online through Parchment. Transcripts for undergraduate programs, PhD programs and most master’s and professional programs are issued by the Office of the University Registrar and should be selected in Parchment as “Danforth Campus” transcripts.

Request Transcript

Writing Sample or Representative of Work

If required for your program application, instructions regarding writing samples will be provided in the application. Consider writings and essays that support your goals. Speak with professors or graduate students in your program(s) of interest for insight.

GRE or other tests

The GRE Test is the world’s most widely used admissions test for graduate and professional school. Learn more about the test and its content, how to prepare for it, and register to take it as part of your journey to graduate or professional school.

Take the GRE

Join the Community

Join the Post-Graduate and Pre-Professional community on WUGO to stay aware of upcoming events and deadlines

Join Here

Application Timeline

Most applications are due about a year before a program starts. The months listed would correspond with your senior year if you plan to enroll in graduate school immediately right after graduation. 


  • Discuss recommendations with faculty members and advisors
  • Work on Statement of Purpose–get feedback from others
  • Develop a personal timeline for the application process
  • Register for the GRE if applicable and not yet done
  • Create Interfolio account if not done yet


  • Take the GRE
  • Finalize your list of schools to which you plan to apply
  • Request application materials including letters of recommendation
  • Reach out to faculty and students of programs to which you will apply
  • Have a completed draft of your statement of purpose
  • Order transcripts from all colleges attended
  • Finish your personal application time-line


  • Follow up with letter writers.
  • Upload materials to Interfolio, school portals, or centralized application systems.
  • Finish your Statement of Purpose, adjusting it to meet each application’s specific requirements and needs.


  • Provide thank you notes to all those that helpd you complete your applications
  • Respond to interview invitations from programs and schedule visits
  • Submit all completed applications


  • Visit schools


  • Check in with advisors as you receive offers of admission to discuss options and offers
  • Respond to schools that offer admission
  • Let those that assist you know about your final decision
  • If applying for need-based financial aid, you may have to file a copy of your federal income tax return in order to complete a FAFSA form