For many professions, furthering your education in graduate school is necessary. Other times, it’s a way to propel your career forward and increase your earning potential. Chances are you probably haven’t thought about applying for school since you were in high school applying for college. If you’re serious about getting into grad school, you need to be smart about your application strategy to increase your chances of getting accepted into a program.
How Many Grad Schools Should I Apply To?
Your best bet is to apply to more than one grad school because admission isn’t guaranteed. The admission committee usually looks at a number of factors and sometimes it takes a little bit of luck to get in. The best way to increase your chances of getting into graduate school is applying to multiple programs. With that said, applying to too many schools comes with headaches of its own. Don’t underestimate the work that it takes to complete applications. Plus, you may need to travel to visit programs and for interviews. Not only that, but you need to consider the application fees. Applying to tons of schools adds up and can become a huge expense. It’s advisable that you apply to at least five graduate programs that you’re well qualified for, known as target schools. However, the number of schools that you apply to should be determined by you (and you alone). If you have the money to submit lots of applications and have the time to travel and do interviews, you can certainly apply for more.
Deciding Where to Apply
There are two common mistakes that people often make when applying to graduate programs. The first is relying on location. Some people only apply to schools closer to home because they don’t want to inconvenience themselves. While it’s understandable to want to stay close to home, it can be risky to limit yourself. You may find that it limits your options or you may end up in a lower-quality program. On the other hand, if the only schools near you are extremely competitive, you risk the chance of not getting accepted into any of them. Try not to limit yourself by a school’s location. Being open-minded can provide you with more opportunities.
The second mistake is applying to a school solely because of its reputation. Many people have the goal of attending an elite school, understandably so. The problem with this is that the more prestigious a school is, the lower the admission rates. If you only apply to top-tier schools, you might not get accepted anywhere. It’s fine to apply to some reach programs, but you also need to apply to safety and target schools too. You also need to consider the fact that there are universities that don’t carry the same recognition as the Ivy League but do have great programs. Always think of your field and look for programs that are best for your area of study, not just because you think they seem impressive. And remember, at the end of the day, your attitude and expertise will determine how far you progress in your career – not the grad school you go to.
If possible, it’s always great to visit the schools. Meeting with students in the program and faculty can help guide your decision. You may find that a school that looked great when you researched it won’t be a good fit for you. On the other side, you may discover that a school you weren’t sure of is better than you’d initially thought. It’s also good to see how you like the campus and the area the university is located.
What’s Realistic For Me?
Another thing that you need to be mindful of is which schools are realistic for you. This varies from person to person. Take a hard look at your college GPA, GRE scores, work experience, research experience, and so forth. This information will help you determine where you’re most likely to be accepted. Do your due diligence to research each school you apply to as to make sure that you’re a qualified candidate. Remember, GPA and test scores aren’t everything. Things like your work experience, letters of recommendation, and your interview also carry significant weight. Plus, if a former professor or an employer has a relationship with the admittance committee, that can help as well. Figuring out where you’re most likely to be accepted isn’t an exact science and can be hard to predict. The more you research though, the better you’ll be able to make educated guesses.
Tips for Applying to Grad School
Now let’s dive in and look at some tips for applying to grad school. These tips will help you get into your grad school of choice.
1. Spend Time Crafting Your Personal Statement
You’ll probably need to submit a personal statement or essay with your application. Your account should differentiate yourself from the other applicants. Tell a story that explains why you’re the perfect applicant. Also, show the reader that you’ve researched the school and the program.
2. Get Recommendation
Ask your professors to write letters of recommendation for you to send to potential grad schools. These letters can give you a leg up against the competition. Don’t stop with just one professor. Get as many high-quality letters as you can.
3. Prepare for the Admissions Exam
Acing the admissions test is critical to getting into graduate school. It’s not unusual to spend 100 or more hours preparing for the GRE or GMAT. Put the time in so you’ll get an excellent score that will help you land a spot in grad school.
Applying to grad school can be a daunting process, but by applying to several schools, you significantly increase your chances of getting accepted somewhere. With an open mind and being realistic about your list of schools, you’ll inevitably end up somewhere.
Using the sage advice above, you can finally answer the age old question “How many grad schools should I apply to?”
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