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Choosing Graduate Programs to Apply To

There are thousands of graduate programs to choose from. If you’re overwhelmed by the choice, you’re not alone. Check out’s advice for how to narrow down the list of schools that are right for you.

Choosing Graduate Programs to Apply To” is excerpted from the special report, Get Your Game On: Prepping for Your Grad School Application.

As you bring your interests into focus, start to create a list of target programs. Many factors will influence your decision-making process. Here are some things to think about:

  • Do you have geographical considerations? (Do you need to be near family, or in a certain city where a spouse works?)
  • What are the strengths of the programs that interest you? If you’re looking to work in industry, does the program offer networking/internships/career placement? If you’re considering a PhD, is the program strong in your subfield?
  • If you’re planning to apply for a PhD program, is there a faculty member in the department who is doing work in your area of interest, or who could serve as your mentor/research supervisor?
  • How many students does the program accept each year? (Some doctoral programs enroll as few as 3-4 students annually, so know that even if your credentials are stellar, you should have more than one plan!)
  • For PhD programs: Does the university publish the average time-to-degree of students in the program? (This is sometimes rather different from the stated program length you’ll find in the program catalog.)
  • Are there opportunities to work as a teaching or research assistant? If grad students in the department are expected to teach, is there a mentoring program in place? How many semesters do students TA?
  • If you’re hoping to work as an academic, inform yourself about the structure/expectations of your discipline. Do the programs you’re looking at have a strong record of placing their PhDs in post-docs and tenure track positions? (Do the professors you’re thinking about working with have such a record?)
  • If you have a good relationship with a current or past faculty mentor, ask for advice about programs and potential grad advisers you should consider.

Author bio: By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, editor and former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

This article was originally published on the Accepted Admissions Blog.


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