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Applications; how many is too many.


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Or perhaps, is there such a thing as too few? In reality, there are only two, maybe three, grad programs I want to attend. I am applying to more, and these other schools do have a program I want with at least one prof. working in my area of interest. I don't want to put all my eggs in [two] baskets, hence why I am applying to other schools. You know, a sort of shotgun strategy. I have applied to, or am finishing the process of, applying to six programs, and have another two or three in mind.

The application process aside, I already paid enough money in application fees, and, have begun to wonder if applying to nine schools is too many? I know there are some people on here who applied to 10+ programs, and applying to more schools will increase the chances of being accepted somewhere...just wondering if this is a good strategy?

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26? Wow, that's certainly the most I've ever heard of.

My impression is that 10-12 is usual (at least for maths / CS). It's a tricky question though, and it depends on the kind of places you're applying to. Especially for smaller programmes, and probably also for some of the very competitive ones, it's always a 'small numbers game', so even if you feel you're well qualified and a good fit there's always a chance you still won't get admitted. How far down you want to get that chance is up to you, I suppose, I don't know if there's a magic formula for how many programmes to apply to (though if somebody else could weigh in I'd appreciate it, still thinking about this issue myself).

One thing to think about is that there's probably not much point in applying to a programme you know you definitely wouldn't feel excited about.

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I applied to 5 tough programs the first time and didn't get in. This year I'm applying to seven. Before I got one acceptance I was planning to do 2 more so 9 in total, but then it came and I scratched that plan.

I think it really depends how good you are and how hard to get into the programs are (I read that psychology programs are way more competitive than other fields which is why I think DarwinAG is applying to so many).

I think if you can afford it financially, have the energy to complete 10+ good applications, there's nothing really to lose. Depends on your field and finances. For me, I already felt like I did a million applications at only 7, especially as I'm reading about different POI research at each one, tailoring contact emails and SOPs.

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Might be different for biology. I am applying to 26.

I am applying to schools based solely on two criteria: does the program have my particular area of interest, and, is it in a location I would want to live for five years+. Outside of my preference for those two to three programs, all other schools I am considering meet my two requirements. On one hand I want to apply to more to simply increase my chances of being accepted into at least one, but, I wonder if the more I apply to more the less in quality the applications will be (essay)?

I also worry that if I am accepted into more than one program, how will I choose which one to attend? Despite prestige, if it applies, the programs I have applied to and would like to apply to are all about even on entrance competitiveness as far as I know. The schools vary in rankings if you believe in such things, but for the most part, none are my "reach and safety".

How do applicants deal with this?

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I've been told it's not only a waste of money to apply to 10+ programs, but disadvantageous in the view of your letter writers as well as the admission committee, should they find out you're applying to so many schools. Doing such a thing might mean:

  • you're uninformed and undecided about what you want to do in grad school, considering many programs have specific sets of professors for various subfields
  • the LOR writers don't want to send so many letters to so many places
  • if the admission committee finds out, they will question your commitment should they make you an offer
  • makes you look like you want the school name more than the degree

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I've been told it's not only a waste of money to apply to 10+ programs, but disadvantageous in the view of your letter writers as well as the admission committee, should they find out you're applying to so many schools. Doing such a thing might mean:

  • you're uninformed and undecided about what you want to do in grad school, considering many programs have specific sets of professors for various subfields
  • the LOR writers don't want to send so many letters to so many places
  • if the admission committee finds out, they will question your commitment should they make you an offer
  • makes you look like you want the school name more than the degree

I disagree with this, for my field anyway. The average number of schools is 10-12, according to my LOR writers. Each letter only varies slightly, so once one is written, it isn't a big deal for them to write ten of them. There are actually about 15 programs with faculty that fit my interests (which are extremely non-traditional, so for more mainstream research interests, there would be more) and for various reasons including funding and/or location, I've narrowed that list of 15 to 9 that I actually applied to. Most of those 9 applications had enough space for me to write all other 8 schools I've applied to. I definitely think adcoms will consider whether you will accept an offer, but I don't think applying to 3 other or 9 other schools makes a difference there. And your SoP should make clear why you would choose them, so I wouldn't worry about that. As far as "wanting the school name more than the degree," I'm not sure I really understand that one. I'm applying to a couple schools that are more "prestigious" than the others, but the other 7 are pretty evenly matched in my field, so that part doesn't apply to my situation.

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if that's the norm for you, then it's fine. but if those who apply to too many, are trying too hard. it won't help them get into a top ranked program, and it makes them look like they want the school prestige more than the degree. grad school involves seeking out the professors you want to work with. As far as I'm concerned, this applies to aLL fields, not just engineering. I would say focus on individual applications instead of focusing on casting a wide net and hope for the best. That's the strategy you should use when you're submitting resumes for jobs. It will most certainly backfire if you do that for grad school

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Eep, I'm applying to 6 and I think that's already quite a bit. However, I'm pursuing a less "popular" degree (Communications) and program offerings are limited and not the same across the board.

4 of the schools I really want to get into have deadlines in January, so I'm putting all my energy into applying for those first. After those are out of the way, I'll send off the apps to the other schools (deadlines are in Feb/March). I hope that's enough for me, but if nothing works out I'll have to find a Plan B ....

Overall, I think maybe 6-10 would be sufficient? Like others have been saying, however, it probably depends on your program and how competitive it is.

Edited by hopeful80
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if that's the norm for you, then it's fine. but if those who apply to too many, are trying too hard. it won't help them get into a top ranked program, and it makes them look like they want the school prestige more than the degree. grad school involves seeking out the professors you want to work with. As far as I'm concerned, this applies to aLL fields, not just engineering. I would say focus on individual applications instead of focusing on casting a wide net and hope for the best. That's the strategy you should use when you're submitting resumes for jobs. It will most certainly backfire if you do that for grad school

I absolutely agree with this. I'm not "casting a wide net" in hopes of getting in anywhere. Everywhere I applied is a good fit and I would attend if accepted (with funding). I concur with your comparison to the job market, and if one is applying to a bunch of schools in hopes of landing somewhere, anywhere, then that's not a good strategy and will appear desperate. Whatever your field, you should research best fits, both programs and faculty, and only apply to schools where it actually makes sense. Ending up with full funding at a top program and then having to fit your interests to whatever's going on there will make for a miserable situation and, I would guess, not great work, so being at a top program will end up being pointless.

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Or perhaps, is there such a thing as too few? In reality, there are only two, maybe three, grad programs I want to attend. I am applying to more, and these other schools do have a program I want with at least one prof. working in my area of interest. I don't want to put all my eggs in [two] baskets, hence why I am applying to other schools. You know, a sort of shotgun strategy. I have applied to, or am finishing the process of, applying to six programs, and have another two or three in mind.

The application process aside, I already paid enough money in application fees, and, have begun to wonder if applying to nine schools is too many? I know there are some people on here who applied to 10+ programs, and applying to more schools will increase the chances of being accepted somewhere...just wondering if this is a good strategy?

You should apply to a minimum of 10 schools just to be safe. It has gotten VERY competitive to get into a fully funded program... One of my colleagues applied to 20 and only got 1 offer....

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I like your criteria: fit and location. If those schools are the absolute, absolute only ones meeting your needs, then I think you already know the answer. However, you need to be honest w/ yourself. Are you OK w/ not attending at all if NOT ONE of those schools comes through? Or would you rather go to a school w/ good fit/bad location or vice versa? As an applicant, I'd err on the side of caution. Look into some lower ranked schools that might meet both needs and/or add schools that meet 1 criterion and might not be as good with the other. Hopefully, you'll get to decide between your top picks...but, it's always good to have back-ups.

* Also, with location- not only do you want it to be tolerable for 5+ yrs, you also want it to sustain you in the nascent stages of your career. Like, if you choose not to do a post-doc, ask yourself if you're in a locale w/ numerous job opportunities in your field. And if you can really work your alumni network there.

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I'm applying to 11. My letter writers encouraged me to apply to more when I was at 7. Most of mine could be considered "reach" schools and I would be excited to attend any of them because I have found labs at each school that are doing research in the area that I am pursuing. I don't care to relocate for a mediocre program and have come to terms with the possibility of reapplying next year on those conditions.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been told it's not only a waste of money to apply to 10+ programs, but disadvantageous in the view of your letter writers as well as the admission committee, should they find out you're applying to so many schools. Doing such a thing might mean:

  • you're uninformed and undecided about what you want to do in grad school, considering many programs have specific sets of professors for various subfields
  • the LOR writers don't want to send so many letters to so many places
  • if the admission committee finds out, they will question your commitment should they make you an offer
  • makes you look like you want the school name more than the degree

I received different advice. Perhaps it is field specific. All of my letter writers seemed okay about me applying to 10+ programs and it was actually encouraged. Professor fit > school prestige for me.

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