How Many College or Graduate School Applications Should You Send?

by TIMsexton

graduate school applicationReady to apply to college or grad school? Sure, you’d love to get into Yale, but your last name isn’t the same as a famous politician, so even though you’ve got a 4.0 GPA, there is no guarantee your deserved spot at a prestigious school won’t go to some legacy party animal with the intellect of a discarded beer keg. Is it better to apply to just the colleges you really want to wind up at, or should you shoot the moon and go for broke?

In the first place, by the time you are ready to actually start applying for college or grad school you should already have done your homework. What that means is that not every school is going to be right for you. Before you even get to the point at which you start applying for, you should have narrowed down your choices to those that are the best fit for what you want to accomplish, whether that means going to school, the very name of which is enough to get you an interview or whether you just want to find a school 3000 miles away from suffocating parental involvement in your life.

There are some who insist on applying only to the school that has been the subject of their academic dreams, while others decide to go with the machine-gun approach and apply to 100 different schools. The best course of action is probably not even in the middle, but closer toward the one-school idea. Those who have a perfect GPA and have some impressive credentials to boot can probably get away with applying to only three to five schools; those with the impressive GPA, but who maybe didn’t regularly get their high school or college newspaper articles reprinted in the local newspaper should probably take the five to 10 school approach.

It is an unfortunate circumstance of reality that the college or grad school application process is dependent in great part upon things that are out of your control. For instance, if you have your heart set on getting into Stanford and you’ve got all the credentials anyone could ask for, you are destined to wind up somewhere else if the choice comes down between you and some kid whose dad is a United States Senator or the CEO of Halliburton. That’s a fact of life and there are a million different variations. For that reason alone, you need to think in terms of, at the very least, five different schools for application.

Of course, there is another financial consideration as well. It simply isn’t cheap to apply to college or grad schools. There are application fees to think about and when some of those fees can run into three figures by the time you’ve sent off twenty applications, you may well be talking well over $1,000 just for the pleasure of being turned down by schools across the country. Sadly, it is another case of how economics reaches down into the very essence of life in these United States to deny the best and the brightest their opportunity to shine. Some elitist legacy with a consistent C average can afford to apply to a 100 schools, even though his last name automatically gains him entry into a prestigious school, while some genuinely bright and creative individual whose parents make too much to allow for financial aid can only afford to send off an application to his one dream school.

Applying to college or grad school shouldn’t just be about how many application fees you can afford. Getting into a good school is like deciding whether to invest in Google, Yahoo or both. Decide which schools really fit your choice of a dream school and then rank them in order of which you would most like to attend. The ideal number of schools to which you should apply will depend entirely on your list, but you should apply to at the very least five to 10.

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