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Exploring Graduate School: Making the Initial List of Graduate Schools

December 4, 2009 by

So you have a passion. You want to explore it, immerse yourself in it, and get to know it on a deeper level. But lo! There are so many graduate schools behind so many doors.  Behind door #1 is an open-ended program that you could tailor to suit your particular interests; behind door #26 is a competitive and specialized program that only accepts 5-10 candidates per year. Door #14 reveals a school in a beautiful location with a large graduate population. How do you narrow down your choices? What should you be looking for? What do you really want?  What schools are even likely to accept you?

Plan on an initial list of about 15-20 schools which you will then narrow down to 6-10. Here are my tips for starting the process:

Location, Location, Location

  • Where are you willing to move? Are you willing to go out of state? Across the country? Out of country?
  • What kind of climate (temperature, weather) do you want to live in?
  • Is an urban or a rural setting important to you? Are you worried about distractions from a booming city, or are you afraid of the dark?
  • Do you want to be in a large or small school? Do you prefer a school that largely caters to undergraduates or that has several major graduate programs?


  • Ask around for opinions on where to go
  • Ask friends, family, professors, co-workers, college counselors, that guy in the sub shop

Rankings and Programs

Check out the following publications and internet sites. You can get some indication of program ranking as well as search for programs by area of the country.

Part II: Researching specific schools



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