Deadlines come fast, and letters of recommendation come slow. It’s wise to know your preferred universities’ deadlines well ahead of time (ideally a year) to allow yourself time to complete the application and your faculty to write a strong recommendation. You’ll likely be contacting offices for transcripts, faculty for recommendations, companies for required exam scores and potentially loads of others. Although it seems like a personal process, it ends up being a collective effort that you have to coordinate.
Know as much of your admission committee’s process and practice it. Programs can require essays, portfolios, interviews, exam scores and résumés to start. You can get feedback on all of these facets of your application before you either send them or experience them. To put your best foot forward, get as much feedback as you can. Write multiple drafts of your essay, try out a few practice interviews with career services and spend time preparing for your exams. The time you put in practicing makes the process familiar. That leads to success.
For many advanced degrees, you are paired with a faculty mentor or advisor who will guide you through the degree and help grow your research or creative work. It helps to know if you all get along, even if your research interests match. The bonus of knowing you are compatible thinkers both on paper and in-person is that you’re about to set off on an experience in which you spend a load of time together. It helps to know if that time will come easy.