This whole process can be extremely overwhelming. Your first job is to find some allies. Going through this process alone is not recommended, it can be isolating, alienating and extremely stressful. You need support.
Friends and other students can be a great resource during this period. The key though, is finding other people who will be going through the same process. Your other friends will be helpful, but if they’re in their senior year like you they will have a ton of other stress going on. You need to find other people who are also going through this grad school process. This is a unique process that comes with a ton of unique challenges. Finding others to go through it with you will help a lot. Look for groups on your campus who might be focusing on the same thing, or other students in your department.
Your next ally is professors. At some point in this process you are going to need letters of recommendation. Your best bet here is to start your conversations with your professors at the start of the semester. Let them know what your plans are, talk with them about their own experiences in grad school. The point is to get a conversation started. A letter or recommendation is not a one time request, it should be a process that you go through with your letter writers. Your professors can let you know about other students who might be going through the same process, they can also give you support and guidance through the process. We’ll talk about relationships with professors in other posts, but for now the important thing is to get this conversation started.
Go, go now! Email your professors and set an appointment!