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How to decide where to apply


cs0223

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With so many profile evaluation threads here, it might be more useful to ask this question: How did you (or people you know) decide where to apply for graduate school? I know that you ought to narrow it down based on specific professors or research projects you may be interested in, but how do you even start - they say you should apply to 2-3 schools at your level, 2-3 reach, and 2-3 backups, so how do you figure out which schools are at each level for you?

Do you go by the school's department rankings from grad school ranking sites, or do you go by information more specific to your subfield, or advice from professors and researchers you know? Should you measure your GPA/GRE against the averages for the schools to see if you likely will or won't get in? What else would you suggest?

Thanks all!

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  • 4 weeks later...

With so many profile evaluation threads here, it might be more useful to ask this question: How did you (or people you know) decide where to apply for graduate school? I know that you ought to narrow it down based on specific professors or research projects you may be interested in, but how do you even start - they say you should apply to 2-3 schools at your level, 2-3 reach, and 2-3 backups, so how do you figure out which schools are at each level for you?

Do you go by the school's department rankings from grad school ranking sites, or do you go by information more specific to your subfield, or advice from professors and researchers you know? Should you measure your GPA/GRE against the averages for the schools to see if you likely will or won't get in? What else would you suggest?

Thanks all!

I applied to one school: George Mason.

Could I have done better? Probably. Maryland is down the road and has significantly better rankings.

That said, I am working full-time in my field at the same time, so it was either Mason or an online master's program (Colorado State's MSCS is the first that comes to mind). Maryland was out of the question since I would have to pay out-of-state tuition as a Virginia resident (and U.S. citizen). Plus, my office is in Virginia, and DC area traffic is infamous - there is no way I will commute two hours (or more) each way just to get to class.

Bottom line: where you apply depends on your life situation. You might work full-time at the same time, like I do. Or, you might prefer a big city rather than a suburban or rural environment. One school may have interesting research, while another might not have any at all.

As for GRE/GPA, the numbers are merely filtering mechanisms that do not necessarily imply success as a researcher - and graduate school, by and large, is training for research.

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