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Thread: How to narrow list of schools applying to

  1. #1
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    How to narrow list of schools applying to

    I just want to start out by saying this is NOT another "Help me pick..." type thread.

    For those of you who have been through the whole graduate school application process, how did you go about narrowing your list of schools you want to apply to? I've already gone through about 4 reviews, and I've managed to cut my list down to 10 programs. That still seems like a lot to me (is it?), but every time I re-review the programs, I can't narrow it down any further. Each program on the list has some curricular element, some studio, some research institute, or some faculty member that prevents me from narrowing the list further.

    Is 10 programs too many to apply to? Did any of you have similar problems? How do I pick one program over others when they each offer something uniquely, yet equivocally appealing about them?

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    I just want to start out by saying this is NOT another "Help me pick..." type thread.

    For those of you who have been through the whole graduate school application process, how did you go about narrowing your list of schools you want to apply to? I've already gone through about 4 reviews, and I've managed to cut my list down to 10 programs. That still seems like a lot to me (is it?), but every time I re-review the programs, I can't narrow it down any further. Each program on the list has some curricular element, some studio, some research institute, or some faculty member that prevents me from narrowing the list further.

    Is 10 programs too many to apply to? Did any of you have similar problems? How do I pick one program over others when they each offer something uniquely, yet equivocally appealing about them?
    Honestly, for me it was about location and the professors. I would call the professors and talk with them. Is there a professor there that has a specific interest that you have as well? I found that having a professor that was interested in your niche of planning was great.

    If all the schools are even, I would say that the location, value, and professors are the three main points that you could differentiate from. If you can't after that, go with football team
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  3. #3
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    I'll have to echo also, that it seems like location is the next limiting factor. Are all the schools in an area you want to live in or work in? One factor that helped me choose my graduate program was the fact that the graduate school was so big and provided many opportunities for classes in other areas of interest as well as the college my department was located in. Ten schools seems like alot, but it can't hurt to apply to all of them if you have the time and $.

    Obviously, other perks such as student football ticket opportunities should be taken into account as well
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    I've managed to narrow it down to 7 based on location factors - though I wouldn't have minded (I even wanted to) live there, cost of living is too much to deal with while in school. If I like the area so much, I can try to find a job there after I graduate. I also removed one due to lack of available classes outside the department. Everything else seems good. 7 still seems like a lot, but it feels much more doable than 10 for some reason.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Seven seems like overkill, but then again I only applied to one college and got in
    What type of work do you want to do after you earn the degree? Have you considered setting up informational interviews with firms/agencies in the communities you would like to work? These can be in-person or over the phone. Hopefully you will find out (1) where they went to school and (2) their thoughts on the quality of education from recent graduates (who often apply for work there).
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    If you know what you want to do after graduation, or at least have some idea, then you can cut down your list by applying to the schools whose graduates tend to work in at those jobs.

    Also, if two schools are located close to each other, you may be able to cross-register.

    In the end, if you have the time/money to apply to 10 schools, I say go for it. Having too many schools to choose from is a good problem to have.

  7. #7

    my approach

    I went to this website: http://www.acsp.org/education_guide/overview

    Went over the entire accredited list of schools and first picked places I would like to live and/or work. Because the city and surrounding area is going to be your laboratory for study. Then I went through the list (I had 16) and narrowed it down to 8. Then I read more and more on these forums and actually added a few and got rid of a few schools. I'm back at 8 now and I am also worried if its too much.

    Also, Just to apply to schools its going to cost me like $800. (60 an app, 30 a transcript, 25 to send my GRE scores).... this is redonkulous

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    7 to 10 schools is a lot.

    I only applied to 2 schools, got in both with funding. I stayed closer to home.

    You should have:

    A reach school like Harvard
    An easy school like (insert name)
    And maybe 1 or 2 others that appeal to you.

    Also, it's like $65 to $75 dollars to apply to each school. For some like me that's an issue.

    Not to mention you'll improve your chances of acceptance by writing very specific statements of purpose. Even though I worked as a writing consultant and love writing, the 2 letters I wrote were stressful and time consuming.

    But hey, if you got the time, money, and stamina to complete 7 to 10 apps then go for it.

    Oh last bit of advice. Making the decision on where to go was 10 times as hard as applying. I couldn't imagine having to choose between 10 different schools. Getting in is one thing, deciding where to go is another.

    Good luck

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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Batmanda's avatar
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    When I was applying two years ago, I made a giant list of every planning masters program I could find- 45 in total (I know, I know...) I proceeded to narrow it down first by places I would definitely not want to live, but I also took away schools from where grew up and did my undergrad- and honestly, its been a really interesting and eye opening experience to study planning in a place that has some very different issues than I had thought of before, plus I feel like as a non-local I might bring something new to the table. So, while planning is a place-based field, don't rule out places just because you don't think you'll work there in the future. While we do a lot of local studying and work, a good planning program will give you knowledge and experience you can apply anywhere.

    Next, I looked at concentrations- most grad programs will make you pick one at some point, so if there are one or even a few you're interested in, cut out schools that don't have them. I think at that point I was down to 15 schools, so thats when I started looking at specific professors. Yes, its very cool to study under someone who's literature you've been reading for years, but realistically, unless you're a PhD, you aren't going to get to spend a lot of time working with them one-on-one.

    I applied to 8, which sounds crazy to some, but I knew I definitely wanted to get my masters and didn't want to risk not getting in. I was accepted to 6. The biggest thing is don't apply anywhere because you feel like you "should"- if you imagine getting in only there and declining acceptance, it isn't worth the money or time.

    Good luck and hope that helps!

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