Admissions US

How to Research Graduate Schools

After deciding to apply to graduate schools, the first thing you should do is to find the program that fits you. US graduate programs could be affiliated with different colleges and/or departments, even though they are classified as similar research areas. You should figure out what your strong and weak points are and based on that, set up a strategic admission plan to restrict potential graduate schools. You should also pay attention to the fact that each university has a different program/degree title, admission requirements, and acceptance rates. That’s why the research process matters and you should narrow down the universities to apply to. It is organic that being frustrated to restrict universities over hundreds of graduate programs. Then following steps would be helpful for you.

First of all, you should prepare for the exam scores such as GRE/TOEFL. Check if the university requires the exam scores and if it does, start it as early as possible - it might take a while to get a good score in the exams. Keep in mind that these exams are more of a marathon, not a sprint. The exam results will help you to restrict the universities by measuring up to your standard.

Next you should do is to identify Safe schools that you’re likely to get admitted to. Now that you know your competitiveness upon self-assessment, you are able to decide the range of universities that highly ensure your admission. You might narrow down the universities due to your major and research interests, referring to the university rankings. Let’s assume that you’ve decided on the 100th ranked universities as your Safety schools. You would then remove universities below 100th on your list, consider universities only within 100th for your application.

Please note that you should be prudent when dividing them into three categories - Dream schools, Target schools, and Safety schools. If you set your Safety school improperly, it makes it harder to get admitted to the program no matter how perfectly you prepared for the admissions process. Following is a suggested list of how to search and list your Target and Safety universities.

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A. Refer to the university major rankings of accreditor such as:
     a. https://www.usnews.com/rankings/
     b. https://www.topuniversities.com/
     c. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/, etc.

B.  In case you can’t seem to find the above rankings not helpful, search and see the accreditor of your major. Or search for the association of schools and programs on your major. If your major is in Public Health, for example, there’s ASPPH(Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health): https://programfinder.aspph.org/

C. In case you can’t seem to find the above lists on your major, make a list of the universities providing programs and degrees on your major at https://www.gradschoool.com/.

D. When you finished outlining a group of schools for applications, choose your fit programs compared to your research interests from each universities’ department website, referring to Research, Faculty, Laboratory, Program. During the research, gather and arrange the information on your own such as the pros and cons of the program, it will be much helpful for you to contact professors or apply to later.

E. It is also available for prospective PhD students to contact directly to a professor or current graduate students in the program about the program. Your recommender, alumni, or seniors at work in the same research area will give you tips or recommendations for potential universities since they’re in academia.

F. Everything needs to be considered: Climate, public safety, location, probability of scholarship, tuition fees, living costs, and etc. Then you will finally reach your shortlisted potential graduate programs.

G. Make a checklist to ensure you would prepare for everything required. It should contain Deadlines, GPA, TOEFL, GRE, Prerequisites, and any additional documents. This is to set your overall application schedule and prioritize the application closed to deadlines.

H. Prioritize the overall application process to take advantage of the rest time. You should then finalists of the university to which to apply.


The Steps of Applying to Graduate Schools will be more discussed in the continued articles.

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