How Many Graduate Psychology Programs Should I Apply To?

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It is a widely accepted fact that getting into a graduate training program in psychology can be highly competitive. Even students with very high GPA’s from nationally recognized undergraduate programs must make a number of steps to ensure that their application is chosen for admittance. For many students thinking about applying to graduate school,  a large number of questions arise. Should I apply to a master’s or doctoral degree program? Should I try to earn my degree online or on campus? What kind of specialization should I pursue? These are important questions but sometimes it is the simpler questions that are more important. One of these questions is how many programs should I apply to?

In a perfect world, each qualified student would have unlimited time and money to spend on applying to graduate school. However, for most of us this is not the case. The first restriction for many students is the financial aspect of applying to graduate school. According to US News and World report the average cost to apply to college is 41 dollars per application. However, the cost of applying to graduate school can be much higher. Idealist.org reports that graduate application fees generally range between 25 and 100 dollars. What this means is that each student must consider their budgetary constraints when choosing a number of schools to apply to.

The second limitation is time. Applying to a graduate program is a process that takes a considerable amount of effort. Students must complete a number of steps to fulfill the obligations of a proper grad school application. In addition to the application itself, students have a number of elements to complete, including:

  • A Personal Statement – Most grad schools will outline specific requirements for how to write this personal statement. It might be a statement about you as a person, your career aspirations or another related topic. This is an important element and can take applicants a great deal of time to write and perfect.
  • Letters of Recommendation – Almost all programs will require several letters of recommendation. In some cases the can all be written by prior professors, but in some cases grad programs will ask for personal or occupational recommendations.
  • Transcripts – All schools will require the student to have all transcripts from any attended colleges be sent directly to the school. In many cases the college sending the transcript will charge a small fee.
  • GRE Scores – Any school that requires students to complete the GRE’s will mandate that those scores be forwarded to the school.

It is obvious that this process can take a considerable amount of time and effort. This can be a factor in deciding how many schools to apply to. According to most experts, a good rule of thumb is to apply to at least four or five programs, but no more than ten. A good first step is to sit down and consider how many programs would work for you and then pare down to a complete list. For students with an interest in applying to graduate training programs, having a reasonable list of schools is a great start.

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