Hope you are doing well. Let’s talk about how many school you should apply to. This is not undergraduate that you apply like to 20 school. In PR for undergraduate you just apply to three programs in the same school or apply to three different school instead. When you are applying for graduate school you should apply between 7 to 10 schools if you are applying for PhD and maybe 3-5 if you are applying to a master’s program. Why is that? You might be competing with hundred and even thousands of people for 1 to 30 spot in the program. You want your application to be perfect so it doesn’t matter much the quantity but the quality of your applications.
Misconception of graduate school is that there is safety school. Let me tell you that is far from reality there is no such thing about a safety school. In my list, I applied to the University of Maine and I got rejected 2 or 3 days after submitting the application and I was offer an interview in Princeton so that tells you what you need to know about safety school, they don’t exist for graduate programs.
Let’s be real I know deans of many schools and some of them are really honest others not that honest. The reality is that all of them will want you to apply to their school because that helps them get a better rank in US News and World Report but that doesn’t mean you will get in. The honest ones will tell you if you really have chances or not and if they think you don’t, will say to not waste your time and money to apply to their school. There are 2 stuff that I will say will be the most important thing to have if you want to get into a good graduate program and those things are high standardized test score or at least between the average number of applicants (you can find this information in the program page) and a GPA over 3.00 because sometimes they will use those 2 things as a cutoff. A cutoff happens because there are so many applicants and different from undergraduate, professors and not the dean are the ones in charge of your acceptance. Since professor are busier than the dean office because the last one are in charge of basically admission and administrative things vs faculty that are teaching, grading, be in charge of research, writing grants and also have to read your application. The dean will moved forward only the ones that he/she think that have chances and the faculty will decide to offer interview or not.
So if there isn’t safety school, how you should apply?
I will list the things based on importance.
1-The school offer the program that you want to study and have professors in that field that you want to pursue
2-The research in the field that you want to pursue is of a high level and there are publications in big IF journal
3-People that graduated from the program are working where you hope to work in the future and obtaining good positions
4-You like the weather in the city that you are applying for
5-If you have the opportunity to visit the university and while there you feel like you are in home, you like the state and town where the university is located. It is important that if you decide to visit, observed how students interact to make sure it feels like you will fit in that place or not.
7-The program offer you funding and the stipend provide is enough not for a rich people lifestyle but enough to live comfortably without having to worry about not having stability
8-The University have things that are important to you like diversity, supporting clubs for those that are minority, intramural sports, etc.
9- Ranking, I know people love Ivy leagues but this ranking is not based on Ivy leagues but base on research of the program like you are in computer science you should apply to Carnegie Mellon or MIT as your top school, for law, Harvard or Georgetown, biological science Stanford or Hopkins, medical school, Hopkins, Harvard or UCSF. You see what I am trying to say, Ivy leagues are sometimes not the best school for what you want to study. When making a list consider the above and that will reduce the amount of schools like to 20 and then to reduce it even more to at least 10 choose 3 that are top (1-20), 4 that are between 30-50 and 3 that are above that ranking.
Hope this helps you while you are making your list. Don’t be afraid to apply to at least a very top school because you really don’t know if they will accept you or not. You do your best and stay positive.
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