How to Choose a Graduate
Selecting suitable schools is much more complex that it first
seems. Sometimes, you have to delete some in your original lists because some
simply do not fit your chosen study field while others may be much more
competitive than you thought. Also, due to the limited time to prepare for a
full application package, you finally have to give up some that you are
particularly interested in. This is often caused by improper timing. Therefore,
it is wise to carefully select your schools as early as possible. The other
advantage is to save money. Graduate School application fees range from $30 to
$100, and the average is $50. If you apply to 10 schools, the fees sum up to
$500. Our experiences indicate that it pays in time and money to narrow your
field down to around five target schools.
Then, how to choose target school? In our opinion, the school
selection should be approached as a market behavior. You choose a school because
you are interested in it and would like to enroll if accepted. You choose that
school also because you believe there is a possibility that you will be
accepted. In other words, you will not apply to a school if you don't intend to
enroll that school or if you believe your application will definitely be denied.
This sounds something like a deal -- you pay your interest and the school sells
you admission. If you are not interested in the school or the school do not
grant you admission, then the deal can't be reached. Now, the process turns out
to be two sub-processes: list the schools that fit you (you are interested in),
and delete those that are most likely to deny you until five remain.
The most important aspect of a school is its academic fit or how well-suited
the school is to the research you want to do. If you're a prospective grad
student in history, then it's certainly a good idea to
find out where the leading history departments are.
However, to have a really good graduate experience, you need more than
just a respected department. You need the faculty who share your research
interests, and will become involved in your work and involve you in their own.
Also in your consideration are the research facilities
available, learning environment, and the school curriculum. To get such
information, you may speak to the department faculty or talk to its current
Your Admission Possibility
equally important is your admission possibility to this school. Although no one
except admission committee can determine your admission possibility, you can
predict your chances by comprehensive review of your background and the school'
published data. Most school clearly states their requirements for admission.
These requirements are general, but some of them, such as the minimum GPA, GRE
score etc. are a good indicator of your chances. If your numbers do not meet the
minimum requirements, it is safe to say that you are wasting your time and
published rankings by U.S. News can be a signal for how competitive the school's
admission may be. However, there is no magic formula. A strong GRE score may
compensate a less than stellar GPA, but a score of 800 doesn't guarantee
admission. A strong interview may offset a lack of academic experience. If you
are applying to the top schools you probably cannot afford to have more than one
weak area in your application.