• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.



Page history last edited by Dr. Makenzie B. Lystrup 11 years, 12 months ago

Download a pdf version of the timeline


What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to get a job after graduation?

Do you want to go on to graduate school (and what after that)? Big questions that require

serious thought. However, there are a lot of things you can do throughout your undergrad

years that will help you make informed choices when the time comes to decide.


Freshman/Sophomore years

It may seem way too early to worry about this stuff, but your freshman and sophomore

years are really the times that you should start thinking beyond Boulder. You don’t have to

make up your mind now, but follow the suggestions listed here in the Freshman/sophomore

section of the timeline. By the time you need to make decisions, you’ll be in good shape

to make the best choice for you. And you’ll be prepared for whatever comes next.

Your first couple of years at Boulder you want to start thinking about what fields you

are interested. The steps listed here will help you find what areas of research you may

want to pursue. Attending Beyond Boulder activities will help you find out what kind of

career options there are and what graduate school might be like. This is also the time to

start participating in research. It is best to start as early as possible; you will find out

what research is like – and if you enjoy it – and you can test out different fields of research.

This is the best way to pinpoint what areas you actually may want to work in.


Fall/spring semesters

• Meet with faculty mentor(s) to discuss possible career options

• Begin attending the department seminars and colloquium

• Investigate the research groups on campus

• Make a habit to frequent professors’ office hours

• Sign up for student membership in the professional societies in your field (e.g. APS,

AAS, AGU, etc.)

• Participate in undergrad research opportunity on campus

• Apply for an REU or other summer research program – make an appointment with

the CU Writing Center to go over the applications



• Participate in a summer research program

• If in Boulder, talk with a professor about undergrad research position


Junior year

During your junior year you want to start defining your goals. By the spring semester you

want to have a good idea of a couple of fields you are interested in working in – continuing

undergraduate research is a great help here. You also want to decide if you are going to

apply to grad school and if so, you need to define the criteria for schools. Near the end of

year you’ll want to start preparing for the GREs and narrowing your list of schools. It’s

important to use the summer after your junior year wisely!

If you don’t think you’ll head to grad school now is a good time to start investigating,

including industry internships. Start working on your resume now. Make an appointment

with CU Career Services to go over your resume and get suggestions on improving it.


Fall semester

• Start studying for the Physics GRE

• Continue with undergraduate research and narrow down the fields you are interested


• Get your resume together and identify areas where you could improve it – you have

a year to fill in the weak spots now!

• Look into indistry internship programs that run in the summer and throughout the


• Start reading (a lot and outside your field) and building your vocabulary for the

general GRE (The New Yorker, The Economist, Scientific American, The New York

Review of Books, etc. are good resources)


Spring semester

• Define your goals: What do you want out of graduate school? What are the areas of

research you are interested in? Where do you want to live?

• Begin investigating grad schools

• Apply for an REU or other summer research program

• Practice for the general GRE and sign up to take it ASAP (in the summer)



• Create a shortlist of grad schools

• Make an intensive study schedule for the physics GRE and stick to it

• Read the Feynman Lectures

• Practice for the general GRE

• Find scholarships and fellowships you can apply for

• Begin crafting your statement of purpose; it must be personalized and specific for

each school, but for now you can begin a general draft

• Participate in summer research program

• Register for the first physics GRE

• Take the GRE general test at the end of the summer – it will make your life easier in

the fall and give you an opportunity to take it again if you aren’t happy with your



Senior year

This is it! The fall semester will be a very busy time for applications. Hopefully the work

you did in the summer will help. If you’ll be applying for jobs, fall is the time to begin

polishing the resume and making contacts. The spring will extremely busy with your job



Fall semester into the beginning of spring semester

• Finalize your list of schools and scholarship/fellowship programs

• Mark all deadlines on your calendar!

• Make appointment(s) with the CU Writing Center to go over your personal state-


• Attend Professor Michael Dubson’s Physics GRE prep seminar

• Schedule and take the general GRE if you haven’t already

• Take the first available physics GRE if possible so you can take the second if necessary

• Ask professors/advisors about letters of recommendation; select 4 that are willing to

write a strong and detailed review

• Give letter writers required information, materials, and deadlines and your CV

• Submit FAFSA

• Make an appointment with Career Services to discuss your job search

• Determine career fair dates

• Polish your resume


Spring semester

Grad school offers start to arrive and you’ll need to weigh your options!

• Consider taking a deferment for AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Teach for America, work,


• Make sure your resume is spotless

• Make appointment(s) with Career Services for help with interviews, cover letters,

and your continued search



Disclaimer: The material on this website is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under the AAPF program. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the fellows and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.