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Number of Places To Apply


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I'm wondering how many places you all think is best to apply to. I realize this may vary, but generally, what are your views? Personally, I haven't decided yet. There are many schools I am currently considering but I don't want to ask too much of my letter writers or pay too many fees.

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- Don't worry about asking too much of your letter writers. They expect to do this stuff every year, and they'll almost always send the exact same letter to every school, maybe with slight alterations. Although, of course, make it as easy as possible for them (give them your sample, statement, CV, list of deadlines, etc, and all of this early). But don't let concern for them limit your number of applications.

- Fees. This is a more concerning factor, I guess. I tried to weigh my total application fees against what I would get from one succcessful application (so, $2000ish vs 5 years stipend) :P. The 2000ish includes the GRE and their diabolical charge for every additional score report. Maybe it was closer to 1800, I forget.

It's up to you, in the end. I applied to 18. 3 acceptances, 4 waitslists (2 of which became MA acceptances, one of which later expressed interest in me). Personally I'm on the "err on the side of caution" side.

On the other hand, there were some people last season who only applied to a small number. If I recall correctly, on the who_got_in forum someone only applied to (and was accepted at) Princeton. Other people only applied to 3-5 because they felt that they had the time to more properly focus their applications, and so on.

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The number of universities you apply to should really depend on how many you would be happy going to. I have heard of cases (mostly on this forum) where people applied to schools they weren't particularly excited about, and ended up really conflicted when those schools became their only acceptance. I think most ended up reapplying anyway, so why spend the money on a school that you would never consider attending?

However, cruel as it may sound, you have to go into your applications prepared for at least some failure. So you should have a good range of schools, from the 'dream school' down to some sort of safety school- one that you like, but isn't as competitive. I applied to seven schools (all of which I would have been happy attending), and while I thought I was prepared for failure, I really did think I'd be accepted to a couple. I received one acceptance, and that's where I'll be going in the Fall so it didn't matter that I was rejected from everywhere else. Still, it was a bit sobering to think that I only *just* managed to get into grad school. If I was applying again, I'd apply to more of a range of universities (I had three Ivies on my list, which is a little high for my GPA in hindsight), and I think I'd apply to a few more, maybe ten in total.

Good luck!

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