How do I know which graduate schools I have a solid chance of getting accepted into based on my personal strengths and weaknesses? How do I know I'm not applying to too many schools that are a bit of a stretch?


Janelle Matrow, Noodle staff here to help!

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A great Noodle article for helping you figure this out is "How to Apply to Grad School in 10 Easy Steps." As someone who is currently applying to graduate schools, I can attest this article provides good advice.

You can also utilize Noodle's grad school search to find schools that offer a master's program in your field of study. It is likely you have some chosen criteria of location, budget, etc. that already narrows down your search. Once you get a proper list, take a look at their programs online. Often programs provide statistical information about their typical grad student including mean GRE scores, GPA, etc. And don't be afraid to contact the schools directly to ask questions that can help you discern if they are right for you.

But above all else, don't shortchange yourself! Based on your strengths, personal history, statement, resume and work experience you might be a perfect candidate for a program you wouldn't otherwise think you would be. Take a look and see what different grad programs want from their candidates. You might surprise yourself. Good luck!

Anonymous, Former graduate student

In my opinion, graduate schools are tougher to gauge than undergraduate schools, in terms of your chances of being accepted. First of all, most college admissions statistics apply to their undergraduate program. They may or may not have the statistics for graduate schools as well. Another complicating factor is that it may be easier or tougher getting into the graduate program compared to the undergraduate program, even if it's the same manor/program. I have some friends that were rejected when they applied to a graduate program in their undergraduate own school!

This is not to discourage you, however. Figuring out your chances of getting into a program can be done through the same process as you did for undergrad. It may just take more time and resources since this information typically isn't as readily available. Talk to your counselors at your undergraduate school or even give a call to a counselor at the school(s) you are interested in. They should be able to give you invaluable insight into their program. You might even learn about other programs that will interest you more instead!

I hope this helps! Best of luck with your graduate school applications.

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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Janelle Matrow gives you solid advice and directs you back to a great source: Noodle's grad school search. You don't say if you are currently enrolled in college, or what you want to study. But you can reach out to current professors/advisors or the staff at prospective schools to discuss what programs might be best for you given your interpersonal strengths and weaknesses. A current faculty member who knows you, your career goals, and has the inside scoop on grad schools on your list, may especially provide the best match. Either way, you will have to do your homework in finding the place that takes advantage of your natural strengths, and does not exacerbate weaknesses. For example, if you're thinking about Business School, many offer an intense and competitive experience. If aggressive students make you want to hide your head, then those schools with a more relaxed, inclusive, esprit de corps would belong on your list. In terms of the admissions process, if a strength is nailing the interview, if possible focus on those programs where this will count.

To make sure your list of schools is not top heavy with long-shots, you should rely on the admissions criteria at each, especially the mean test scores of students they admit. A well balanced list for you will have a few programs where the mean score and GPA is somewhat higher than yours, these are your "reaches" - (a caveat, not all grad programs give equal weight to scores and grades).

To better your chances of being admitted, you should target the greatest number of schools where you are more sure of winning admission. Importantly, you should have some safety schools on that list. As for how many to apply to? I know of students who apply to ten medical schools and business school applicants who apply to just three or four programs. It's tough to answer this question without more specific information. How you go about this and the number of schools you apply to is partly dictated by the nature of admission at this type of grad school, how many programs you want to shoot for, and the odds you're willing to play.

Hope the above helps!

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