5 Ways Applying to Grad School is Like Online Dating

By Laura Morrison, July 2014


applying to grad school is like online dating
Two daunting processes – full of hope, and potentially, pain. You put your best foot forward, dress nicely, discuss your positive attributes, put on cologne, and hope for a positive response. Applying to grad school can be a lot like online dating. Here’s why.


  1. Pictures might lie.

    The grad school website: shots of a picture-perfect campus…electric green lawns studded with attractive students of all ages and ethnicities…gleaming labs boasting state-of-the-art equipment. You know these photos are all carefully chosen for the impression they'll make, right?

    Similarly, remember that the shot of the svelte stud or studette on your online dating site may be (a) ten years old, (b) their friend, or (c) a stock photo. True, most people are honest, but there are always scammers out there.

    The best way to determine whether the shots of the campus - or your potential date - are accurate? Meet in person.

  2. The hottie with the dream profile isn't always the right match for you.

    Whether it's your graduate school or your mate, it's not about perfection, it's about fit. We have a tendency to work off of a "list" of qualities: "tall, height-weight proportional, smart, funny, no debt". Or "on the East Coast, in a large city with lots of fun things to do, comes with an amazing financial aid package, and has a world-renowned science department."

    Ok - that can be a good place to start. But what happens if open your mind? You might find that the true love of your life is actually quite short, or located in the midwest.

    Keep an open mind, and pay attention to your gut instinct. It may steer you in directions you don't expect.

  3. Cost doesn't always predict quality.

    Do you think free online dating sites must be shady, simply 'cause they're free? Not so. Matches have been made on craigslist and yahoo, just the same as on paid sites.

    Similarly, the more expensive private schools aren't necessarily any better than the more affordable public schools.

    Always beware of any school - or any person - that seems to be demanding money from you constantly: gold diggers come in many guises.

  4. Watch out for overwhelm.

    It's easy to get overwhelmed during both the online dating process and the graduate school application process. There are just so many options out there! And we want to be certain we don't overlook our perfect match, so we end up going out to every event, interview, or coffee date – in other words, over-extending ourselves.

    If you allow yourself to get drained and dazed, it'll be that much harder for you to make a sober and logical choice between all the possibilities.

  5. You might need to kiss a bunch of frogs.

    Sometimes you find the perfect match, right off the bat. Perhaps early on during your graduate school search you find the ideal program. You apply and get in. Or perhaps the second or third person you message with ends up being your mate for life. But other times you look and look and just don’t seem to find the right fit. Don’t despair!

    Chances are, the right school – and partner – is out there for you. Persevere, and you’ll find what you’re looking for.

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About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.