Graduate schemes

When to apply for graduate schemes

If you’re interested in graduate schemes, you really don’t want to miss the deadlines! So when should you start applying for roles? Find out in this guide.

Applying for graduate schemes calls for an organised approach. Not only must you perfect your application to showcase your skills, but you need to be mindful of the time frame for applying.

Missing out on a graduate scheme that you would have loved to do just because you passed a deadline or didn’t realise that applications were even open is easy to do, but totally avoidable!

In this guide, we explain some of the key periods over the year when you should probably be making applications and share some tips to help you make sure that you’re making the most of your time.

Peak recruiting times

Graduate schemes differ in terms of when they’re open, but the peak time for applications is September to December. So if you’re in your final year of university, you should be starting to apply as soon as you start the academic year.

when to apply for grad schemesSome companies will wait until January or recruit all year round, but if the New Year is the first time that you start to think about applying, you’ll have already missed the boat with many graduate employers for another 12 months.

The application process can be quite lengthy and will involve several stages, so starting the process early is the best way for employers to ensure they have plenty of time to put you through your paces.

Make a list of the companies you’re interested in working for and then take a look at our graduate scheme deadlines section to find out when you should be applying.

How to manage your application timings

Apply as early as possible

Obviously you need to apply for a graduate scheme before the deadline. Any late applications will go straight in the bin without even being looked at. But whenever possible, apply as early as you can.

A lot of the big employers and recruiters have closed the process earlier than they initially stated in the past, just because they were inundated with so many responses. Don’t be caught out!

As soon as the company announces that it has opened applications, aim to get yours in as soon as possible once you’re¬†completely¬†happy with it.

Balance your uni life with applications

Don’t forget that university and studies should always take priority. After all, if you don’t get the grades, having a place on a graduate scheme won’t mean much!

Try drawing up a timetable that allows you to get your applications in on time without neglecting your studies.

And if you do find that applying for graduate schemes while working on your dissertation and final year modules is just too much, you can always apply again next year.

You don’t have to be at university while you’re applying, and you may do much better overall by holding out.

Don’t get stressed

don't stressTry not to let the whole process stress you out too much.

Graduate schemes can be a great opportunity and it’s wise to get yourself organised, but they certainly shouldn’t take over your life when you’re in your final year.


If you really find that you are spending too much time on applying to each scheme then make sure you prioritise.

Take time to pick out the companies and roles that you would most like to work in and then apply for these first. It’s much better to make three really well prepared and tailored applications as opposed to 10 sloppy ones because you were in a rush to get them all sent off.

Quality not quantity is the key!

If you’re interested in finding out which companies offer graduate schemes, head over to our employer directory.

Have you started to think about your graduate scheme applications? How are you balancing applications with your other commitments? Drop us a comment below!