1. Talk with faculty members in your undergraduate school and visit several graduate programs before choosing those that offer research in areas of your interest.
2. Take GRE’s as early as possible. The subject test is usually optional (check with specific graduate schools). Your GRE test scores, recommendations, and undergraduate GPA are the most important factors in getting into a competitive graduate program.
3. Get recommendation letters from faculty members who can comment on your performance in chemistry courses, preferably in both lecture and laboratory portions of the class. Start cultivating these meaningful, collegial relationships your freshman year. That way, you will have a strong base of faculty members who are able and willing to write recommendation letters on your behalf when the time comes.
4. Apply early (fall of your senior year). Many programs take students on a first come, first serve basis.
5. Be sure to review for any placement tests if the program you are applying to requires them. Your performance on these tests is crucial to getting into competitive and highly desirable research groups.
Information from the UAB Graduate School