Creating the Big List
So, you’ve decided to apply to grad school. What’s next? Working with us at The Art of Applying®, one of the first tasks you will face is creating a school list that makes sense for you.
Investing this time on the front-end will allow you to feel confident about your school choices and avoid wasting precious time and energy applying to schools that don’t align with your career goals, personal values, or lifestyle preferences.
Failing to conduct this research can lead you astray to programs that you’re not really interested in or lead you to miss out on a best match program for you.
In this two-part blog post, we offer you a step-by-step process to help you research, reflect, and refine your way to a finalized list of schools.
Step 1: Get Clear On Geography Preferences and Start Big
The first step is to create an expansive Big List of as many possible programs you would consider attending. This may seem excessive at first, but when you are just starting your list, it’s best to start big and narrow your list later. When you are creating this list, don’t worry about the details yet. Instead, simply consider the geographies and cities where you can truly envision yourself living.
- Can you see yourself living in a rural town?
- Are big cities with high costs of living acceptable?
- What level of noise are you OK living with, especially while enrolled in a graduate program?
- Do you have any geographic restraints?
For example, say your partner is willing to move with you, but their place of employment only allows transfers to certain cities. Or maybe you have a relative who you would like to have easy access to during this time. As you answer these questions and “gut-check” different geographies, use online rankings resources to create an exhaustive Big List of schools that fit your geographic preferences and needs.
Step 2: Dig Deeper into Career Goals & Program Reputations
The next step is to dig deeper into your career goals and ideal post-graduate employment opportunities. While you may not yet have a crystal-clear post-graduate career goal, at the very least you have a general sense of the industry, role, or type of company that you’d be interested in pursuing post-graduation. The reality is that, brand names and school rankings aside, not every program is well equipped to support your transition or pivot into every industry or company. Schools have varying levels of success in placing students into different industries and companies based on factors such as geography, alumni group, program concentrations, and resources. Taking your interests into consideration, conduct the necessary school research to understand which programs can get scratched off your Big List.
Some examples to consider as you refine your Big List:
- If you are interested in pursuing investment banking, attending a program near New York City may make more sense than attending a program on the West Coast.
- If you know your dream company is ESPN, make sure that the programs you are applying to have actually sent graduates to work at ESPN.
- Some management consulting firms only recruit at certain schools.
Don’t wait until the first few weeks of your program to find out that one of your dream companies simply does not recruit at your chosen program. When you conduct this research carefully, you may find out about programs that existed in geographic places you would not have considered previously — add them to your Big List if it feels right!
At the end of this step, your list should be cut down further to schools that exist in geographies where you are willing to live, and offer career opportunities that will place you on a fulfilling path of success.
That should be enough to get you started. Join us next week for the final two steps to finalizing your list of schools!