top of page

Grad School Application Process Time - U.S., U.K., Australia

Are you thinking of going abroad to study? Do you hope to attend graduate school in the US, UK, or Australia? Whether you wanted it or your parents pushed you to pursue higher education, Thrive English wants to share about the process and timeline for applying to graduate school abroad.

  1. School Selection 1-3 months

  2. English tests (IELTS, TOEFL) from 6 months to 1 year

  3. Standardized tests (GRE, GMAT) 6 months to 1 year

  4. Application Documents from 3-4 months to 1 year

As you can see, this process takes well over 1 year! When you clarify your future goals and gain work experience, you’ll be ready to start your applications. Recent graduates often struggle to know their direction; they’ve just spent the last 20-something years listening to what their parents and teachers told them. It’s better to work for 1-2 years first, before starting applications.

Details about each step of the process:

  1. School Selection: 1~3 months

    1. Select 6-8 (no more than 10) graduate school programs to apply to. Research the details of each program, don’t just think of the school name. Consider classes, faculty, location, program length, etc.

    2. Higher-ranked schools require higher scores on IELTS/TOEFL and GRE/GMAT. They expect students to already come with strong communication skills (Writing, Speaking). Therefore, higher score expectations require more preparation time.

    3. Most students take several months to consider their personal goals, and then start to find school names. Some start with a list of 20 schools, and narrow it down to 6-8 schools.

  2. English Tests: TOEFL, IELTS (~6 Months intensive work, once you’re at IELTS 6 or TOEFL 80.)

    1. Most graduate schools require either a 6.5 on IELTS OR a 85 on TOEFL. Higher-ranked schools might require a 7.0+ on IELTS, or 100+ on TOEFL.

      1. You can improve 5 points on TOEFL in 1 month by learning testing strategies. To improve 10 points on TOEFL, it takes 6 months+ of intensive work.

      2. To improve 1 point in IELTS, you need 200 hours of intensive work in Speaking & Writing.

    2. There’s no shortcut to these tests. They are skill-based, not content-based. Memorizing Vocabulary lists will not help you USE the words you study. You must practice producing (writing and speaking) English regularly.

    3. If you are a college student (any year) or working adult, begin practicing English by expressing yourself with comfortable topics, and gradually work up to harder, more academic topics!

  3. Standardized Tests: GMAT, GRE (6 months to 1 year)

    1. If you’ve already finished IELTS or TOEFL, you’re in a good place to practice for GRE/GMAT. Learn English first for IELTS/TOEFL, and continue refining your communication through rigorous practice for GRE/GMAT. They’re not English tests, but evaluate how you communicate in English at an academic, professional level.

    2. To get 150+ (average) on GRE’s Verbal Section, you will need 6+ months of consistent, regular writing practice with feedback.

    3. GRE is optional at some schools. GMAT is required for most business programs, like MBAs. You can find schools that don’t require either test.

  4. Application Documents: 6 months to 1 year

    1. Again, the more clear your professional goals and the more work experience you have, the more quickly you’ll be able to write.

    2. Components:

      1. SOP/PS/Motivation Letter: (3-6 months)

        1. 250-1500 words, ½ to 2 pages. (Average 600 words, or ~1 A4 page.) Takes several months (and many drafts!) to write; get started as early as possible by asking “why do I want to pursue graduate school?”

        2. This is the most important part of your application (yes, more than your test scores, GPA, and resume). Ask for help from experts who understand each school’s values. They can help you clarify your goals to express your motivation clearly.

      2. Letters of Recommendation: (1 week)

        1. 1-3 Letters, 1 A4 page each. Most students in Taiwan write their own, and ask professors, supervisors, or managers to sign their name.

      3. Resume/CV: (2 weeks)

        1. List recent (college or after) activities: education, internships, volunteering, research, work, club activities, leadership opportunities, skills (languages, coding), hobbies.

        2. Quantify your achievements, and use simple language. Stick to simple past tense verbs, unless it’s a current job.

      4. Supplemental (School-Specific) Essays: (1-3 months)

        1. Once you narrow down your list to 6-8 schools, you must convince each of the schools that they are “the only one” for you. Imagine “proposing” (求婚ing) to each school. If you call them all “beautiful, rich, and pretty,” 難怪 you’ll get rejected. Whenever a student writes, “I love your high ranking, comprehensive curriculum, great faculty, and strong alumni network,” I vomit on the inside.

        2. You need to be more specific–each and every one of these schools knows what they have. You do not need to list their qualities to them. However, they do not know you, or your story. Don’t impress me with your Resume. Tell me, WHY do YOU want it?

If you need help with your grad school application, sign up our 20-minutes FREE consultation.

If you want to practice/improve your English speaking, come and try out our conversation class for free for one week.

Have a nice day!

Cate Shubat

Private Tutor at Thrive English Language Center


Thrive English Tutor Instagram:

Thrive English Group Class Instagram:


bottom of page