Some international universities have application deadlines in December for programs that start in August/September of the next year. Dutch universities usually have much later deadlines, but you do not want to be forced to study somewhere just because you missed every other deadline. Ideally, you already start looking at graduate programs toward the end of your first year.
After you have settled in at UCR, start thinking about what you might like to study in the long run. When you choose your major, it helps to have looked around at what you can actually do with that major and what courses some graduate programs in your discipline(s) require. If you do not plan ahead in your courses you might find yourself having to take a pre-Master year!
If you are not sure what you want to study yet, do not panic – research in your first year is not required, just very much advised.Year Two
Hopefully you are taking some 200- and 300-level courses in your discipline. This should give you some insight in whether you actually want to spend the remainder of your academic life studying a particular subject (and professionally practicing it, afterward). Many students change their minds at this point. Luckily, it is still early enough to change your program along with it. If you are no longer (or still) unsure what you want to do after UCR, talk to your tutor and/or professors about your options
Consider spending the summer between your second and third year looking at programs and thinking ahead (for example, masterportal.eu
is a very good website to start your search). By the end of the summer, you should have selected several programs to apply to and can then spend the next semester working on meeting the requirements. For instance, if a program requires a writing sample, it might be useful to pick a course with a suitable assignment and work very hard on it so that you can use it as a great sample, or edit a previously written paper. The earliest deadlines are in December (especially if you are a non-EU international student who wants to continue in the Netherlands or EU), but even if you can apply later you should have all application material ready in the winter break so that you can avoid stress later on