How Many Graduate Schools Should I Apply To?

If you are planning to pursue graduate studies, you will be faced with tons of option among schools and programs. Each of these schools and programs come with their own unique values and opportunities and you need to evaluate what fits in best with your career goals.

When it comes to deciding your graduate school, it is very important to pick the right one. Obviously, you want the one that is right among your target schools. One very important question that many students think about is – “How many graduate schools should I apply to?”

Before attempting to answer this question, you need to understand that you may want to put a cap on the number of applications. Firstly, each applications dents your wallet through applications fees, transcript fees, test scores and other such elements. The more the number of applications, the higher the costs you incur.

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Additionally, the more schools you apply to, the lesser time you get to work on your application for every school. This may result in a below par application which may affect your chances of admission. You need to make sure that you send in the strongest application to every school.

Obviously, this calls for a need to balance the number of schools you apply to. It is a bad idea to pin all your hopes on one school. If you are not accepted into the program, you may have to go through the entire process again next year. Your admissions depend on a number of factors and you can never determine whether you can really get into one particular school. Even if you have a good GRE score and high GPA, make sure that you don’t limit yourself to one school.

Now that we are fairly clear on this point, it is a prudent move to apply to more than one graduate school. However, refrain from going on an application submission spree. Make sure that you do solid research about the school and its program and map it with your own goals and interests.

One important point about this whole process is to be extremely realistic about the process. You cannot bag an Ivy League university with a low GRE score and a mediocre application. In this case, it does not make sense to waste your time behind such universities. Instead, concentrate on building your application for a good tier-II graduate school.

Another key factor is the time you have for the application process. Remember that you need to craft a good personal statement and essay, get in various letters of recommendation among other elements of the application. The mantra – Develop a few ‘strong’ applications, instead of many ‘average’ ones.

So how many should you apply to? Well, it completely depends on individual capabilities and circumstances. As a general thumb rule, you should look to apply in 5 programs that match your application. You should cap it at about 10 applications. Among these applications, atleast one school should be slightly above than what your application qualifies for while one should be slightly below. If luck is on your side, you may just land a seat at a program you never thought you could get into. With the lower ranked school, you are guaranteed admission into one program and do not need to repeat the process again next year.

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