Exploring Graduate School: Making the Initial List of Graduate Schools

December 4, 2009
Vanessa Jones

So you have a passion. You want to explore it, immerse yourself in it, and get to know it on a deeper level. But lo! There are so many graduate schools behind so many doors.  Behind door #1 is an open-ended program that you could tailor to suit your particular interests; behind door #26 is a competitive and specialized program that only accepts 5-10 candidates per year. Door #14 reveals a school in a beautiful location with a large graduate population. How do you narrow down your choices? What should you be looking for? What do you really want?  What schools are even likely to accept you?

Plan on an initial list of about 15-20 schools which you will then narrow down to 6-10. Here are my tips for starting the process:

Location, Location, Location

  • Where are you willing to move? Are you willing to go out of state? Across the country? Out of country?
  • What kind of climate (temperature, weather) do you want to live in?
  • Is an urban or a rural setting important to you? Are you worried about distractions from a booming city, or are you afraid of the dark?
  • Do you want to be in a large or small school? Do you prefer a school that largely caters to undergraduates or that has several major graduate programs?


  • Ask around for opinions on where to go
  • Ask friends, family, professors, co-workers, college counselors, that guy in the sub shop

Rankings and Programs

Check out the following publications and internet sites. You can get some indication of program ranking as well as search for programs by area of the country.

Part II: Researching specific schools


Vanessa Jones Vanessa has been a Kaplan Graduate Admissions Consultant since 2006. She has supported applicants in applying to a wide range of graduate programs, from Psychology, to Library Science, to Japanese Anthropology. Her clients have been admitted to an equally wide range of schools, from Georgia State to UCLA, Yale, and Oxford. Most of Vanessa's clients have been admitted to their top-choice schools, and most receive financial awards. In addition to graduate school applications, Vanessa also supports scholarly grant applications and helped one of her clients win a Fulbright fellowship award. With her background as an English Literature teacher and academic advisor, Vanessa specializes in helping applicants strengthen their personal statement and resume. She works with applicants to define their interests and objectives and translate their stories to paper. Vanessa holds a Master's Degree in English Literature from the University of Iowa.

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