Considering graduate school can be daunting, but one important decision is determining which schools to apply to.
Experts generally advise applying to four to six programs. This allows you to choose schools from across a wide spectrum of reach, target, and safety schools.
Remember, application fees add up quickly.
1. How Competitive are Your Top Choice Programs?
Consider all relevant factors when selecting which grad schools to apply to. Apply to enough schools so you have an effective chance at acceptance without becoming time consuming or expensive; keep application fees in mind as well as tuition and living costs when making this decision.
Experts advise applying to four or six graduate programs, so as to find one that’s the perfect match without wasting your time, energy, or money. In addition, consider including some “safety schools,” where your qualifications meet or surpass what’s needed.
At this juncture in your career development journey, grad school is also an essential consideration. If your focus lies within traditional fields such as accounting or medicine, earning a master’s or PhD may be essential; but for non-traditional or creative paths it may not be as necessary – be honest with yourself regarding what your true career goals are and whether grad school can help achieve them.
2. How Important is Grad school to Your Career Goals?
Grad school may be necessary to achieving career goals for some individuals. With the appropriate degree program, graduate education can provide all of the tools you need to progress in your chosen field – be it an increase in GPA or new skills to make you an attractive candidate.
Others see graduate degrees more as something extra, something they would like to accomplish but isn’t essential to their long-term plans. When making this decision, it’s essential to assess how important such degrees are to you before choosing how many programs to apply to.
Applying to multiple graduate schools can be both time and financially expensive, with application fees, tests (such as GRE and GMAT ), transcript fees and living costs all contributing significantly. To minimize expenses further, it may be worthwhile limiting your list to reasonable target and safety programs.
3. How Much Money are You Willing to Spend on Grad School?
Grad degrees can be costly; even fully funded degrees come with additional expenses such as tuition fees, books/materials costs and living costs. Therefore it’s wise to plan for these costs early and consider your budget when planning for graduate education.
Consider the opportunity costs associated with graduate school as you make your decision: the years spent pursuing your graduate degree may mean years where you won’t be earning income and building professional experience, instead spending them doing research, networking and progressing within your current role.
Applying to graduate school can be both time and cost intensive, so it is wise to set realistic expectations about which programs you can actually afford to apply to. Submitting too many applications could exhaust your time for quality submissions or have you submitting low-grade ones just so as not to miss any chance. Consulting friends, family, and mentors regarding how many programs would they suggest applying to would also be wise.
4. How Much Time are You Willing to Devote to Grad School?
Graduate school is a full-time endeavor that demands your full dedication and focus, so it’s essential that you consider how much time is available for studying each day and whether this commitment aligns with your other responsibilities and your study goals.
Based on your goals and resources, creating a calendar to track responsibilities and activities may be useful in meeting them. This can be accomplished online or via physical planner. Once you have an accurate understanding of your daily and weekly schedules, it will become much simpler to fit graduate school study hours into those spaces.
Time required to finish a graduate degree will vary, but in general students should anticipate spending 25-30 hours per week (for non-thesis master’s programs) working on school work. While this commitment can be stressful at times, if you remain committed to your studies it can prove worth your while over time.
5. How Much Time do You Have to Devote to Grad School?
If you are balancing professional, family and other commitments simultaneously, it may be wise to limit the number of programs that you apply to. The application process can be time-consuming: researching programs, writing personal statements and essays, gathering letters of recommendation from faculty and submitting standardized test scores are just a few components to be completed successfully.
Each application entails an associated cost, with costs increasing as more schools are applied for. Many graduate school applicants take out loans that quickly add up in expenses.
Start the application process early – at least two years prior to when you want to enroll in your program – as this will give you plenty of time for research, exam prep (if applicable), and narrowing down of choices. By starting early and being realistic about acceptance rates for each program listed on your list, the pressure can be eased while creating an outstanding application that stands out among its competition.