When to Apply
It is never too early to start thinking about graduate school. You should begin compiling information on individual graduate departments no later than the first term of your senior year. Applications for admission in the fall of a particular year are acted on during January-April of that year. Offers of all types may be made quite early in this period. Some engineering graduate programs are now requiring that applications be completed before Christmas.
If you will graduate in mid-year, you need not delay applying for admission until you are in phase with the group entering in the fall. Nevertheless, there are usually advantages associated with beginning in the fall as one of a new class of entering students. Departments operate differently with respect to mid-year admissions and financial aid. Direct correspondence is the best means to determine the practice of a specific school in this regard.
Applications are processed by department and university staff and are usually reviewed by a committee of faculty. It is a labor-intensive task to bring together all the applications forms, letters of reference, transcripts, GRE scores, and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores for the international applicant pool. Some departments acknowledge the receipt of applications and supporting materials, while many do not. Similarly, some departments will notify students when materials are lacking from their files as time for evaluation approaches. Students may wish to confirm by telephone or e-mail that their files in a particular department are complete, but such inquiries should be kept to a minimum.