We receive between 1000 and 1200 applications each year for our 12 Ph.D. programs. Through the years, we have developed some tips to help applicants when deciding which graduate schools to apply to.
Of course students will choose schools which have good programs in which they are interested. This list may include a large number of diverse schools. We suggest that students apply to no more than 5 schools. A good "rule of thumb" is to choose one school which the student feels he/she is nearly guaranteed admission; then choose two or three schools which may be somewhat of a reach, due to interest, GPA, test scores, etc. And, finally choose one school which may be a dream school.
Many schools require an on-campus interview. The interview allows the student an opportunity to gauge the quality of the program, the interest of the faculty, speak with current graduate students, and determine how well his or her research interests might be supported. Some schools offer an optional campus visit in lieu of an on-campus interview.An interview weekend or campus visit can be very helpful in making the final decision. It is also important to visit those schools which do not require an on-campus interview to see these things firsthand.By limiting the number of schools to which a student applies, it is easier to schedule interviews or campus visits. Most interviews trips will take at least two days. For instance, our interviewees arrive on Thursday afternoon and leave either Saturday or Sunday. If a student were to go on six or more interviews, he or she could miss the equivalent of two to three weeks of school. In some cases, trying to schedule too many interviews can cause a student to forfeit an airfare or have to cancel a desirable interview at the last minute.
The following advice is the most important direction we can give to prospective applicants:The application form includes two essay questions. Applicants are expected to answer these questions. (Some schools ask for a general "personal statement". We strongly prefer that the applicant answer the specific questions on the application form.)Students are expected to convert their own GPA (see Coursework/GPA). A former chair of the admissions committee has a saying, "You never ask the reviewer to do your work."There have been cases in which the admissions committee has returned the application and asked the applicant to complete the forms as requested. This creates a delay in the review process, which is never to the applicant's advantage.
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