As you begin to work on your graduate school applications, you will want to identify schools with degree programs that best suit your interests and goals. Your initial list of schools can be long, but you should aim to apply to 8-12 schools. Being clear on your academic and personal goals can help you pare down the list to a more manageable number.

In addition to finding programs that match your academic interests, consider other factors such as the size of the school, it’s location and the distance from your home. Some universities are in small towns or rural settings, while others are at the center of major cities. Do you prefer cooler weather to warmer weather or do you want to experience all four seasons? What is your ideal class size and how will that affect how closely you can interact with professors? These are all great questions to ask yourself when you start to think about what schools to include on your list.

You should plan to apply to 8-12 schools. If you choose to apply to more schools, you may be casting your net too wide. Every grad school application you submit will cost you time and money. If you apply to too many grad schools, you might not have enough time to work on each application, possibly resulting in errors and oversights. Applying to a limited number of schools will allow you to set personal deadlines for writing and editing your essays and completing each application in a timely manner.

Your list of programs should also be balanced and include safety, match, and reach schools. Safety schools are schools you are very confident about your admissibility. Your safety schools should be schools you would want to attend should these be the only ones you’re admitted to.

The majority of your list should include match schools, schools you think you will most likely be accepted to based on your academic profile. Finally, you should include “reach” schools, schools that are highly competitive but that you believe you might have a chance of admission, even if your academic record and test scores are below the average scores of past admitted students. Some schools will be considered as reach schools based on the small percentage of admitted students.

Identifying schools and programs you will want to apply will not happen overnight. Creating a list of schools takes time to refine and finalize. Start this process as early as you can to ensure you have time to look through the wealth of programs available to you.

About the author
Emily Hadfield

Em received a BS in global business management and a BA in Chinese language from the University of Rhode Island. Em has been studying Mandarin Chinese for five years, including a year at Beijing Union University. Em manages marketing, event planning and client relations for graduate counseling as well as Impact programs.

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