If you're planning to go to graduate school right after you obtain your Bachelor's degree, it is a good idea to begin looking in time to meet the deadlines. Also keep in mind that graduate schools are very selective in the students they choose; if you even think you may want to go to graduate school when you begin your Freshman year, begin working to obtain high grades from the beginning.
You should begin searching for graduate schools during your junior year in college, keeping in mind that it may take some time to narrow your search and choose the schools to which you want to apply. Give yourself enough time to find out about the schools and evaluate which ones might be right for you. Do not set your sights on just one or two; it is difficult enough to get into a good grad school without the added pressure of limiting your possibilities.
While you are doing preliminary research you want to make sure you only research those schools that offer the coursework you need. It is unnecessary to waste time conducting further research into grad schools that do not offer what you need. For instance, if you are interested in obtaining an advanced psychology degree, only research those schools that offer Masters degrees in psychology. It would be of little use for you to continue searching graduate schools whose coursework does not meet your needs.
Since most deadlines for Masters degrees are between January and March, it is advisable to finalize your selections and begin submitting your applications in the fall of your senior year. This should give you enough time to fill out the application and compile anything else that is necessary to submit with the application such as essays, requests for transcripts, recommendations and the like. Keep in mind each school may have a different requirement, so always read the information before you send anything in order to save time.
Always be aware of the deadlines each graduate school has in effect. While applications are usually due between January and March, you need to make sure of the dates before you submit. In addition, when you submit your applications you should make sure you allow enough time in case the school needs additional information or your application does not arrive at its destination.
When you have finished submitting an application, file the copy you made for yourself in a safe place for later follow up. Sometimes things do go awry, so you need to make sure you send the applications in enough time to make those adjustments. If your applications do not arrive on time it will be necessary for you to wait until the following year to enter graduate school. When you are well-organized and have everything you need at your disposal, you can make any adjustments that are necessary before the final deadline.