The grad school application process can be complex and confusing. Accordingly, one of the earliest questions applicants grapple with is how many grad schools to apply to.
Why it’s important to know how many grad schools to apply to
Whether you are applying to business school, policy school, law school, or a different graduate degree, it’s important that you not apply to too few schools nor too many schools.
For example, if you apply to too few grad schools, you risk not being accepted anywhere. On the other hand, if you apply to too many grad schools, you risk exhausting yourself, and wasting time and money. Furthermore, when you apply to too many schools, you also have a high chance of submitting low quality applications just to get them all done.
We advise our clients on how many grad schools to apply to.
At The Art of Applying®, we have a proprietary calculator that we built in-house. It gives each of our clients a customized number of schools that we recommend they apply to. This number is based on their target degree, professional goals, GPA, practice or real test scores (if available), age, and other demographic factors.
Having this clear number of recommended schools helps our clients feel secure that if they submit high quality applications to the recommended number of schools, they have a strong chance of being admitted to at least one of their target grad schools.
But what if you aren’t one of our clients, or you want a rough idea of how many schools to apply to before you are a client?
Use the quick and handy guide below as a starting point.
Factors that should make you consider applying to more grad schools
Before we jump into the guide, I wanted to provide a few notes on how to understand the ranges presented.
The recommended range of applications for each graduate degree is affected by several factors.
The more reach or dream grad schools on your list, the more schools you may want to apply to. You should balance out the competitive schools with lower acceptance rates with schools that are match schools for you, schools at which your GPA and test scores are in line with the median figures for admitted students.
Furthermore, the lower your GPA and/or your test scores, the higher the number of schools I recommend you apply to.
Therefore, choose a number of schools to apply to from within the range based on the number of highly competitive schools you plan to apply to, and the competitiveness of your profile for the schools to which you are applying.
Guideline for # of Grad Schools to Apply to:
I’ve included guidelines for various degrees. If you don’t see your degree below, you can choose the most similar degree. You can also leave us a comment below the post, so we can advise.
Education (M.Ed and similar degrees): 4-7
Policy School (MPP, MPA, and similar degrees): 4-7
Policy School Executive / Mid-Career (MPA/MC, EMPA, and similar degrees): 2-4
Business School (MBA): 6-10
Business School (EMBA): 2-5
Law School (JD): 8-14
Joint Degree: 7 – 14 (counting each application separately)
What if I’m applying to a joint degree?
It’s common for our clients to combine two degrees for a joint degree or concurrent degree. In that case, I recommend you choose a number from each degree. Then, add the two numbers together. After that, subtract 2 to 3 schools from the list.
For example, let’s say I have a low GPA, and I’m applying to highly competitive MBA and MPP programs.
I’d take the highest number from each range: 7 for policy school, and 10 from business school. That’s 17 total.
For just about any degree, 17 schools is too many to apply to. Therefore, I’d subtract 3 schools, and end up with 14 schools total.
We can help you figure out how many schools to apply to.
The method and guidelines above are nowhere near as precise as the calculator we use in-house with our clients. We can give you precise, expert, and encouraging guidance on how many schools to apply to, as well as which schools to apply to, what to write about, how to tell your story, and more.
So far this season, we are working with clients from all over the world — from South Korea to San Francisco.
Some of our clients are applying to just three or four schools. Others have a long list of 15+ schools they are interested in that we are helping them narrow down.
We’d love to add you to The Art of Applying community of dreamers, doers, and changemakers by working with you on your applications to business school, policy school, law school, and more.
If you’d like to explore becoming one of our clients, we’d love to have you complete a quick 5-minute Applicant Profile to tell us about yourself, so we can invite you to a free 15-minute Quick Call.