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What is the average number of PhD programs people apply to?


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I'm applying to 13 too... and I have been told by all of my letter writers that this is well above average. 

In our defense, this is a crazy year, and I personally felt the desire to apply to so many schools given that we still don't know exactly how this cycle will be affected by covid-imposed distress (e.g. will schools take smaller cohorts?). 

Edited by _nutella_
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56 minutes ago, _nutella_ said:

will schools take smaller cohorts? 

Of course they will - 1) current students/ABDs need monetary support, 2) all international students last year would have deferred. Some domestic students are likely to have deferred as well. EDIT: I'm assuming int'l students were unable to enroll if they were remote, but maybe they started their PhDs from their home countries if they couldn't get a visa. Point is, it will be tough.

Edited by timeseries
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Thought I'd thrown in my two cents here.  I applied to 11 programs.  Some were definitely reach schools, but I wouldn't say any were that safe.  I was ultimately admitted to two pretty strong programs.  In the end, as anyone can tell you, its mostly a crapshoot.  I'm not sure there's a "right number."  I'd say don't apply to anywhere, unless you are planning to transfer out (which is unusual) that you aren't very serious about both academically and geographically.  Good luck to all of you this year.   

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I originally planned to apply to 14 programs, but 2 of them cancelled admissions and I removed one from the list for not being a good enough fit, so now I'm at 11 programs. I feel like I spread them out pretty well with a few safety schools and a few reaches, so I'm just hoping that my application is enough to get me in somewhere even if there's a big uptick in applications and/or a downturn in cohort sizes.

Speaking of cohort sizes, UC Berkeley had a graduate diversity admissions fair and the political science department had a webinar about the application process and the department itself. https://polisci.berkeley.edu/graduate-program/applying

They mentioned that UC Berkeley won't be cutting down on their cohort sizes this year, maybe admitting one less student than usual. Admittedly Berkeley is a prestigious and well-funded school but I hope Berkeley's not the only department keeping their cohort sizes the same this fall.

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it depends on your program really. I was advised to apply to around 10 (or more) for clinical and/or counseling psychology

*whoops! I didnt realize this was in the poli sci thread. It showed up on my Recently Updated Topics feed*

Edited by pomegranateleaves
omg
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On 12/5/2020 at 1:14 PM, Eusebius said:

I am applying to 10: 2x "safe", 5x possible, 3x reach.

I spoke with a mentor and mentioned I had 10 programs I was interested in, and wanted to whittle it down to 8. But, he recommended that I not do that, because of COVID's impact on admissions this year.

I was going to apply to 13, then got whittled down to 10, then cut out 2 programs because of fit. This just stressed me out haha.

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I think ultimately the number itself isn't as important as the breadth. As many have pointed out, they've evaluated 'safes', 'possibles', and 'reaches'. My advice to anyone reading is to make sure you don't put your eggs into too many dream schools. Especially with the current state of admissions (or likely the lack thereof), I can't picture many people being able to very accurately predict where they will be admitted right now, so do yourself a favor an apply broadly. Treat every one like its a dream, because in some sense, 2021 admission has a realistic chance to be a total fantasy considering how many schools have already shut the door to apps.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just found this thread now. I applied to 7 Poli Sci PhD programs, mostly in the Northeast USA (with the exception of one in the south). I was pretty picky about program fit, potential supervisors + location, which is why I narrowed it down so much. I have an MA already, so didn't apply to any MA programs. 

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On 1/4/2021 at 12:12 PM, polisci_gal said:

Just found this thread now. I applied to 7 Poli Sci PhD programs, mostly in the Northeast USA (with the exception of one in the south). I was pretty picky about program fit, potential supervisors + location, which is why I narrowed it down so much. I have an MA already, so didn't apply to any MA programs. 

I've been wondering if I should apply to some MAs like CIR this year as well given that my master's degree is policy oriented, but I decided not to stress about it. 

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I applied to 14 schools total, most of which are Midwest/Northeast US. I’ve also decided not to apply to any master’s programs.

My original plan was 12 schools my mentor and I thought were attainable and a good fit, but then I added 2 schools that are definitely “Hail Marys.”

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On 12/12/2020 at 4:06 AM, verschiedene said:

I applied to 13 phd programs and am planning on applying to 3-4 additional MA programs. I am wondering how other ppl decide which schools are safe and which are reach? I extremely nervous as this point as I do not feel any program is a given *safe* for me. 

Applying to 12 schools and I feel this. I think I applied to just reach and "realistic" schools, but no safetys. All the schools I applied to were suggested to me by my advisors who both have great experience in the field, so I hope I made the right decisions. I just need to get into one. This is going to haunt me every day until April I guess. 

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3 hours ago, spotted said:

I just need to get into one. 

That's what I'm focusing on. I applied to 8 and I think 6 of them are reach schools, one safety, and one realistic. I just need one school to give me an offer + funding. I'm worried about some schools I applied to having double the number of applicants but I have made peace with my choice of schools and number of applications.

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I applied to 13 programs in the US and one in Europe. Without the whole covid situation, I would have applied to around 8 programs where I think I have a good fit. I do wonder if applying to more schools was worth it because my fit for many of the seven "additional" programs is not great, so my chances of admission there will likely be low anyway. I don't think I have any "safe" option in the US, but the European program should be safe, so I guess I'll be OK. At this point in time, it is not worth it to bother too much about this. Time will tell if my choices were good.  

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1 hour ago, Alfonso Galicia said:

I don't think I have any "safe" option in the US, but the European program should be safe, so I guess I'll be OK.

I don't think anyone genuinely has a safe option - in my opinion that concept works well for undergraduate admissions, but not PhD programs. ETA: Maybe if you go to Harvard and you have assurances from your advisor that you're in, but I don't think those people are hanging out on grad cafe.

Edited (again) to add: in general, I would be careful about announcing which schools are your "safeties". You never know who is reading this forum and if that's the one school you get into, you don't want any enemies from the get-go (before you're even on campus!), be that other grad students or faculty...

Edited by timeseries
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I’ve applied to 11, 8 in the US and 3 in UK/EU. I think it is definitely a good number and array of schools, but most of them can’t be considered “safeties” which worries me a little. 
 

Edit: most were suggested by my professors so fit is good and if they feel like I have a chance, I suppose I do (trying to be positive) 

Edited by BrownSugar
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4 hours ago, timeseries said:

I don't think anyone genuinely has a safe option - in my opinion that concept works well for undergraduate admissions, but not PhD programs. ETA: Maybe if you go to Harvard and you have assurances from your advisor that you're in, but I don't think those people are hanging out on grad cafe.

Edited (again) to add: in general, I would be careful about announcing which schools are your "safeties". You never know who is reading this forum and if that's the one school you get into, you don't want any enemies from the get-go (before you're even on campus!), be that other grad students or faculty...

Wholeheartedly agree with that. Unfortunately luck also plays a role in PhD admissions given that there are at least several highly competitive applicants for each spot.

 

2 hours ago, BrownSugar said:

I’ve applied to 11, 8 in the US and 3 in UK/EU. I think it is definitely a good number and array of schools, but most of them can’t be considered “safeties” which worries me a little. 
 

Edit: most were suggested by my professors so fit is good and if they feel like I have a chance, I suppose I do (trying to be positive) 

Definitely a good number. I applied to 8, and I think most people tend to apply to at least 6 schools for PhD admissions.

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