When to apply for graduate schemes

Oct 26, 2019

Knowing when to apply for graduate schemes is vital. You want to ensure that you send off your graduate scheme applications as early as possible to give yourself the best chances of success. 

In this post, we’ll share when to apply for graduate schemes and outline some top tips on getting in your applications on time. 

Before we get started, it’s worth highlighting that graduate schemes are different to graduate jobs

Check out our post called “what is a graduate scheme” for a detailed overview. 

When to apply for graduate schemes if you are in the final year of your degree. 

If you are in your final year of university and are looking to get yourself a graduate job before finishing your degree you’ll need to start sending off your applications from September. 

This is because most graduate recruiters open their applications between September and January.

The majority of graduate programmes have September start dates. So if you’ll be applying well in advance so that you’ll have your graduate scheme lined up after your graduation.

In order to avoid disappointment, it is best to apply early as many companies recruit on a rolling basis. 

This means they will start processing applications as they are received. 

Also, it’s a good idea to get your application in as soon as possible as some companies will start inviting candidates to interviews and assessment centres straight away.

Some companies will start running assessment centres as early as November. So applying early can make a huge impact on the success of your application.

Finally, if you are in the final year of your degree, it’s best to send off your graduate scheme application early before your workload intensifies. 

Key takeaway: start applying early in the graduate scheme recruitment cycle to avoid disappointment.

When to apply for graduate schemes if you’ve already graduated 

If you have just graduated, you may need to wait until the next graduate recruitment cycle starting in September. 

So if you graduated in May, for instance, you may need to wait 4 months before you send off your graduate scheme applications.

If it’s been a while since you graduated, you may be wondering if you are too old for graduate schemes. In short, the answer is no, however, check out our blog post on this topic for more information.

Alternatively, you may decide that you want to apply for graduate jobs instead of a graduate scheme.

The difference between a graduate scheme and a graduate-level job is that graduate schemes tend to be highly structured training programs often with rotations. They are designed for graduates in their early career. 

Graduate-level jobs are also entry-level jobs for graduates however, they won’t have a highly structured training scheme and do not usually require you to rotate across different departments.

Employers recruit for graduate-level jobs all year round. So if you’ve just graduated and would like to start your graduate search straight away, you can look out for graduate job opportunities. 

The recruitment process for applying for jobs designed for recent graduates may be slightly different from the graduate scheme application process.

Most graduate scheme applications require candidates to complete:

Graduate job applications may include some of the above stages.

If you are going down the graduate job route, we can help you with your job applications.

Tips for getting your graduate scheme applications in early 

When to apply for graduate schemes

Start your research during the summer.

During the summer holidays before your final year of university, start researching. (If you’ve already graduated, start planning ahead so that you are prepared for the next graduate scheme recruitment cycle).

Juggling your job hunt with other commitments such as uni or work will be challenging.

You can make the process much easier by putting together a shortlist of the graduate schemes you wish to apply for in advance.

Then it’s a good idea to create a template for your CV and cover letter. Having this template ready will make it easy for you to tailor for each position during the application process.

Tip: remember, graduate employers will be looking to see evidence of key employability skills such as communication, teamwork, ability to use your own initiative and more. Be sure to demonstrate these skills in your graduate CV.

Be strategic

Only apply for the graduate schemes that are suited to your career goals, skills and interests. 

If you need help deciding what career is right for you, consider signing up for our one-to-one coaching programme

When it comes to applications for graduates schemes, quality is better than quantity. 

Some applications take a while to complete, so start them early, and make sure that you do not rush them. 

Balance sending out your graduate scheme applications with your studies

If you are still at university and are hoping to get a place on a graduate scheme before graduation, you’ll need to balance sending off your applications with your studies. 

Map out your time efficiently to ensure that you have the time to send off high-quality applications whilst also meeting your academic deadlines.  

Tip: Don’t rush your applications. Some applications will take longer than others. Some will just ask for basic information and a copy of your CV. Others may require you to list off all of your work experience and module grades to date.

Keep track of deadlines

Create a spreadsheet listing out all of the graduate schemes you wish to apply for with details of when the applications open and close. 

Once you know when applications open, set yourself reminders in your calendar to send your application. 

Tip: some companies allow you to set reminders so that you’ll receive an email when the application opens. 

When to apply for graduate schemes: summary

We hope this post has given you a better understanding of when to apply for graduate schemes! 

If you would like some support finding the right graduate scheme for you, check out our career coaching services. We help students, graduates and career changers.

Also, if you’re interested in a career in technology, check out our guide about technology graduate schemes.

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