Questions like how many grad schools should I apply to? and “when should I get started?” tend to plague prospective graduate students. Don’t worry - we’ll give you our take on the matter! However, your applying-to-grad-school plan is also personal, and may depend on your goals, timeline, resources, and any advice you may have received from trusted advisors.
How Many Grad Schools Should I Apply To?
General wisdom suggests you should choose 3 to 8 schools to apply to. Many students wonder if this number changes depending on what field you plan to study. But whether you’re applying to graduate programs in engineering, math, speech pathology, physics, psychology, or something else, there’s no hard and fast rule about how many schools to send applications to. Applying to somewhere between 3 and 8, and making sure you are sending applications to a nice mix of “reach,” “competitive,” and “safe” schools, is fairly typical advice.
To get the answers to more burning grad school FAQs, scroll down to the bottom of the page. Or, check out our list of partner grad schools you may be able to apply to ASAP – potentially perfect if you want to beef up the number of schools you’re considering.
written by Shannon Fandler
7 Grad Schools You May Be Able to Apply to ASAP
Looking to add to your list of prospective graduate schools? Thinking of applying immediately now that you know the answer to 'how many grad schools should I apply to'? These institutions have some programs with rolling admissions or more than one deadline per year, so you may be able to get started applying (and find out whether or not you’re accepted) sooner rather than later.
Rochester Institute of Technology is a technological institution based in Rochester, New York. They offer over 100 master’s, doctoral, and advanced certificate programs, from an M.S. in Accounting program to an MFA in Visual Communication Design program. R.I.T. is also home to cross-disciplinary Ph.D. programs, and a variety of online master’s programs that may offer flexibility to students who need it. The institute prides itself on diversity, sustainability, and resources designed to help grad students achieve their goals.
About Admissions Deadlines: Many graduate programs at R.I.T. have rolling admissions, meaning applications are accepted and reviewed year-round. And, many programs (particularly part-time programs) have multiple start dates throughout the year, so accepted students don’t necessarily have to wait until Fall to enroll.
Concordia serves over 8,600 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, 43% of whom are international students. Based in Montreal, Quebec the university is a vibrant community in an equally-vibrant city. Concordia offers over 120 graduate programs, including master's, doctoral, diploma and certificate degree programs.
About Admissions Deadlines: Some graduate programs at Concordia may offer multiple start dates and several application deadlines per year. For example, the Master of Arts in Educational Studies program has three application deadlines: one each for Fall, Winter, and Summer. Check with your program of interest to learn whether there’s more than one application deadline.
Walden University has been serving the needs of adult learners, including grad students, for over 45 years. They offer online degree programs in a variety of subject areas and levels, including master’s and doctoral degree programs. And, prospective students can apply right away.
About Admissions Deadlines: Walden University doesn’t list application deadlines, since prospective graduate students can apply at any time. Submit your application for free online, after gathering materials such as your transcripts, professional resume, and information about your education and work history. Walden’s graduate programs also tend to have multiple start dates per year and offer flexible scheduling.
Stony Brook University is a research university based in Stony Brook, New York. They offer graduate programs in forty-eight fields across the Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Business, Journalism, Health and Medicine, and more. Focusing on both research and scholarship, the university is committed to helping grad students pursue new heights.
About Admissions Deadlines: Unlike grad schools that may just have Fall admissions, Stony Brook Graduate School offers two admissions deadlines, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. That extra deadline means you may be able to apply sooner than you thought. However, check with your program of interest for more specifics.
Colorado Technical University has been serving students through career-focused educational pathways since 1965. They offer a variety of programs, including master’s and doctoral degree programs, at campuses in Colorado Springs and Aurora, Colorado. Or, students may opt to pursue select graduate programs online.
About Admissions Deadlines: Colorado Technical University accepts admissions year-round, and programs may have multiple start dates. Students typically begin by arranging an admissions interview, in order to discuss their goals with a representative. If they decide to move forward, they can then fill out an online application.
Founded in 1971, Excelsior College is a regionally accredited, nonprofit institution offering distance education. They are committed to serving the unique needs of adult learners. Excelsior offers over thirty degree programs, including graduate programs, across the following schools: Business, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts, Nursing, Public Service, and Technology.
About Admissions Deadlines: Excelsior College accepts applications throughout the year. Their academic calendar is broken into three trimesters: Spring, Summer, and Fall. And, within each trimester are two eight-week terms. So, accepted students may be able to begin their coursework sooner rather than later.
Northcentral is a regionally accredited online university, offering programs exclusively in a distance-learning format. They serve students worldwide, taking pride in helping those with nontraditional learning needs to pursue their goals. Northcentral offers a one-to-one learning model, no physical residency requirements, and a variety of graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral degree programs.
About Admissions Deadlines: Northcentral University accepts applications year-round. Students accepted to doctoral or master’s programs can often complete the admissions process and begin their coursework within thirty days. In fact, Northcentral offers course starts each Monday, potentially allowing accepted students to start learning without much delay!
How to Research Graduate Programs
The task of starting your research can be daunting, especially if you aren’t sure what schools are out there, or what graduate schools have the program you’re interested in studying. You can start right here at GradSchools.com, by filling out our form or searching the site for programs that interest you.
Then, make a list of schools you’d like to learn more about. Some experts suggest starting with at least 15 to 20 schools, and narrowing that list down to the graduate programs you’ll ultimately apply to. Compare and contrast these schools by whatever factors are most important to you – for example, cost, reputation, location, or whether or not the program is offered in an online format. You’ll likely be able to cross at least a few schools off your list right away.
You may also want to consider factors like how many applications each prospective school receives on average, and what percentage of those applicants are accepted. Rather than applying exclusively to highly-competitive schools, it’s often wise to diversify the types of institutions you send applications to.
When Do You Apply for Grad School?
This isn’t quite as simple a question as it sounds on first ask! If you’re wondering when graduate applications are due, that depends on the deadline imposed by your prospective school. Often, grad schools start accepting applications a little less than a year before a given class’s Fall start date, though the exact deadline may vary widely by school or program. However, some grad schools or programs may accept applications on a rolling basis, meaning there is no hard deadline.
If you are asking when you should get started applying to grad school, that’s an entirely different story. Choosing several prospective schools that might be the perfect fit for you requires some research and preparation. If the schools you plan to apply to require standardized test scores like the GRE or GMAT, you’ll have to allow time to take the test (and retake it, if you aren’t happy with your scores). And, you’ll need some time to gather the many aspects of your applications, such as personal statements, transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
U.S. News and World Report suggests getting started two years out (in a perfect world!), or at least one year out from the application deadline. Students who don’t leave enough time risk making mistakes, forgetting key aspects of the application, or really feeling the pressure of getting their submissions in by the deadline.
Make a List of Graduate Schools to Apply to!
Needless to say, the first step of applying to graduate school is researching schools that interest you. So, browse our sponsored listings and request information from higher education partners that look like an awesome fit. Best of luck finding a graduate school that’s perfect for you!