How to Determine Where to Apply to Grad School

The decision to go to graduate school is a difficult one, with many factors to consider.  Once you’ve made up your mind that you’d like to go for it, the next question often becomes, “Where do I apply?”  

Make a list of schools/programs that interest you.  

A great place to start is by searching for programs in various locations or centered around specific topics using or The Princeton Review.  Talk with people in the profession as well as current or former professors to get a sense of reputable programs you’d like to look into.

Once you’ve got your list going, look at each program in more depth.  Review the program’s website and consider contacting faculty or admissions representatives at the school for more information.  Create a list of factors to compare and contrast such as:

  • The length of time and cost of the program
  • Pre-requisite courses and other requirements needed for admission
  • Scholarships, financial aid, teaching or graduate assistantships available
  • What alumni have typically gone on to do after graduation

Make a visit.  

If you are able to travel to the school, take a campus tour and meet with someone within the program or department.  Some programs will offer information sessions or lunch conversations with current students and/or faculty.

Consider the constraints of applying.  

Some graduate school application fees can be quite costly, so you may not have the funds to apply to all that you would like.  Some may ask that you submit specific essays, where others will simply require a personal statement.  Completing each unique application can take time and again you may be limited here.  There’s no magic number of schools to apply to, but you’ll need to decide what a good number for you is based on time, money, and some of the other factors mentioned above. 


Deciding to go to graduate school is a big step, and not one to be taken lightly.  Use these steps to guide your process of finding the right fit for you.