Choosing the Universities

40 minutes, 9 links

You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

We’re back to decisions again. Think back to the most recent decision you made in your life. It doesn’t have to be a significant one. It can even be a trivial decision of purchasing a Classmate Octane Premium gel pen over a Pilot Retractable Premium gel pen. How much thought did you put into making this decision? Did you consider all possible factors: the tip type, material, color, grip type, weight, price, popularity? Did you assign weights to each factor and pick the pen that was mathematically the more optimal one? Unless you were conducting extensive research on developing a new pen for your company, or writing a thesis on the effects of one over the other, chances are you calculated a few pros and cons in your mind, such as cost and comfort, and picked the one that satisficed you.

That word is not a typo.

Not only is satisficed not a typo, it will be the guiding principle as you go through the ordeal of choosing universities.

Satisficer, Simon, and Selecting Universities

The term satisfice, a linguistic blend of “satisfy” and “suffice,” was coined by Herbert Simon** in 1956. Simon coined the term to strike a distinction between classical and behavioral economics.

Classical economics posits that we are all maximizers who strive to get the very best out of every decision we make. However, this assumes that we are rational and armed with the information needed to make that optimal choice. Simon proposed that this is rarely, if ever, the case, due to the limits of human cognition.*

Rather, he suggests an alternative route wherein the “decision makers can satisfice either by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world, or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world.” In both cases, the satisficer is happy to walk away with a good enough solution that meets a certain threshold set by them, as opposed to the best possible one. And research* has shown that the satisficer is also happier on average than the maximizer, especially in situations where the available options are abundant and personal freedom is championed.

Why is this important?

Once you begin entering the rabbit hole of comparing universities, you will soon find the need to draw a boundary between being a satisficer and a maximizer. You will also tend to associate great importance to this decision and increase your stress levels by going over too many factors, always fearing that you haven’t done a thorough enough job. Using the time and energy in your hand as a constraint, we will help you pick the factors that we believe are important to consider while choosing your top universities, but ultimately, the decision is in your hands.

So at this stage when you’re beginning to narrow down universities to apply to, be a satisficer, not a maximizer.

However, once you begin receiving admits from the places you apply to, you can turn to be a maximizer. But more on that in the chapter on picking your dream university. For now, keep telling yourself to be a satisficer.

Well, the first thing to keep in mind about first instincts is that they are almost always wrong.

dangerYour first instinct in choosing universities might be to skim through a ranking website, note down the universities listed at the top, and begin applying. But before you fall into that trap, let’s take a step back to understand the mechanism behind these ranking sites.

Based on a preliminary Google search, you will notice that there are three ranking sites that grab the top spots: QS World University Rankings,* Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings,* and Academic Rankings of World Universities (ARWU).* Taking National University of Singapore as an example, based on the most recent data, it ranks 11th according to QS, 23rd according to THE, and 85th according to ARWU. Why? Because the methodology used and data input for the ranking sites are significantly different. There is a weighted bias towards specific factors when the overall scores are measured.

Method to the Madness

Let’s peek behind the curtains of each rankings site.

Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings

This is an annual publication by Quacquarelli Symonds, a British publication. According to Alexa Internet, an American web traffic tracking company, it is the most widely viewed university ranking worldwide.* QS partners with Elsevier to provide the rankings across 48 subjects and also across regional areas such as Asia, Latin America, Europe, and more.

statsQS collects feedback from over 100,000 academicians, who are all asked to nominate the top 30 universities (and cannot vote for their own).* This subjective feedback is given a weightage of 40%. The other performance indicators include the faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, employer review, international student ratio, and international staff ratio.

Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings

This is an annual publication by the Times Higher Education magazine. Interestingly, until 2009, THE collaborated with QS to jointly publish the annual rankings. However, they turned to Thomson Reuters for a new ranking system in 2010 and later signed another deal with Elsevier in 2014.* Their rankings are also independently audited by the professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

statsTHE collects feedback on 1,400 universities worldwide across 13 performance indicators that are grouped into five categories: teaching, research, citations, international outlook, and industry income.* Teaching, research, and citations each get a weightage of 30%. Their most recent academic reputation survey garnered over 21,000 responses and Elsevier examined over 77 million citations to arrive at the research influence.

Academic Rankings of World Universities (ARWU)

Also known as Shanghai Ranking, this is published by the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, an independent organization focusing on higher education.* ARWU is regarded as one of the three most influential lists of university rankings, alongside QS and THE.

statsARWU ranks over 1,800 universities out of which the top 1000 are published. ARWU seems to take a different approach.* They give 20% weight each to the following four indicators: staff winning Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals, highly cited researchers, papers published in Nature and Science journals, and papers indexed in Science Citation Index-Expanded and Social Science Citation Index. The rest is spread across alumni reputation and per capita performance.

CategoryPerformance IndicatorsQSTHEARWU
Academic & Research ReputationSurvey of academicians40%33%-
Research InfluenceCitations received globally20%30%40%
Staff & Student RatiosVarious ratios across staff and students20%15%10%
Staff & Alumni ReputationNobel Prizes and Fields Medals won--30%
Research ProductivityPapers published in top journals-6%20%
Employer ReputationSurvey of employers10%--
International OutlookInternational students and staff10%7.5%-
Income ReceivedExternally received income for research-8.5%-

danger Do note that since we combined all the ranking methodologies into a single table, a lot of the nuance is lost. For example, although both THE and ARWU have weightage for research productivity, it means different things. THE calculates it based on papers published across all journals indexed by Elsevier’s Scopus. On the other hand, ARWU only looks at papers published in Nature and Science. Hence, we highly recommend looking at each of their methodologies to get a better understanding.

All that data and information is to highlight a few points.

  • First, when you’re looking at these ranking sites, understand that the rankings mentioned are for the entire university and are not degree specific, meaning your program’s ranking might be significantly different from the university’s ranking. Take the case of Dartmouth College. It currently ranks 207th in the world according to the QS, but is an Ivy League with one of the top Engineering Management programs.* Even for the university level, both QS and THE rely on subjective data to compute it, which has its own biases.

  • Second, all three ranking sites look at the citations received by a university on a global level. While this might be a good indicator for domains like biomedical sciences that have a publish or perish culture,* it isn’t a good representation of non-science majors that publish less by trade. Adding on to that, the ranking sites also don’t take into account the non-English institutions.

  • Finally, even if you choose to follow one of these sites, they still don’t take all your factors into consideration. Ironically, these are the factors that have a direct impact on your day-to-day experience, such as resources provided for networking, classroom amenities, quality of courses, and quality of food and housing, to name a few.*

You don’t choose whether to buy a Mac or Windows laptop just by looking at the share prices of Apple and Microsoft, do you?* Sure, it’s helpful to know they’re doing well and still at the top of their game, but your need requires a lot more granular information.

No, we are not discrediting these ranking websites completely. You would still need them to pick universities, since there is too much noise out there. Use these, but only as a starting point. Beyond that, we need to go deeper into the factors that will truly define your experience.

The Quadrant Framework

When you’re purchasing a new house, you don’t just look at the price of the house. You also look at the location, mortgage, down payment, number of bedrooms, quality of furniture, and more. All of these factors will affect your experience after you move into the house. Your graduate school follows the same analogy.

Although it is easier to choose a university solely based on its rank, that is not an indicator of your experience, good or bad, once you join.

Below is a table with all the factors that we thought you should be looking at while evaluating the universities to apply to.

The Quadrant Framework

  • Requirements: Most universities try to reduce the applicant pool size by specifying the minimum scores that you must have to even apply in the first place. These scores allude to your CGPA, GRE, TOEFL, and IELTS exams. Apart from the scores, we placed the tuition fee in this section because that should be considered a limiting factor to apply as well; it could range from $20,000 for a university like Texas A&M, all the way to $80,000 for a university like Columbia (not counting for scholarships or assistantships).

  • Academia: Once you validate that you satisfy the requirements, this should be the second most important quadrant to look at. On average, you will spend about 25% of your waking hours in classes, 50% on assignments and research, and the rest on job search and leisure activities. So the courses you take and research you conduct will define the largest chunk of your graduate school experience.

  • Career: Most of you want to not just study abroad, but also work abroad. We know from experience, as explained in the first chapter, that getting an internship or a job is not the easiest feat to achieve. It would be wise to choose a university that helps you in this process in addition to teaching you the concepts and skills required for the job.

  • Miscellaneous: This contains factors such as ranking and location that we couldn’t place neatly under the other quadrants. Apart from the ones we’ve listed above for all quadrants, feel free to add more that are personal dealbreakers specific to your background.

Good question! Funnily enough, the problem isn’t that there is too little information. Rather, there is too much of it.

The phrase information overload was coined back in 1964* by Bertram Gross in his book The Managing of Organizations. As the decades rolled on, the overload only got more and more dire with the advent of the internet, email, and now social media.

Now, your task is to find useful information amidst all this noise, rather than just find the information.

Let’s find out how we can do it for the various quadrants below.

Admission Requirements

The information on scores and tuition will be present in the department’s website, although in different formats. Consider the following example: the Computer Science department at Purdue University clearly states that the past admits all had a “GPA of at least 3.5/4 or 85/100 or 8.5/10, and total TOEFL scores of at least 100 and subsection scores of at least 22, or IELTS scores of at least 7.5”*. On the other hand, the Computer Science department at Stanford University states that they expect the applicants to have “good English skills,” without specifying the minimum required scores.*

For situations like this, we have another solution for you: admits.fyi.

Two 2015 graduates from BITS Pilani, Pranav,* and Abdul* used their coding expertise and curious minds to build admits.fyi* with more than 350,000 data points from past admits and rejects. They spent weeks gathering this data from various sources, cleaning it, and building an intuitive user interface for everyone to consume.* Every admit and reject has details on undergraduate school, graduate school, CGPA, GRE score, TOEFL score, major, and more. In the absence of a baseline on the department’s website, use this as a sanity check if there are enough data points (>50). However, know that outliers are always possible.

Academic Opportunities

Under Academia, we have courses, research, and STEM certification.

Courses

Fortunately, every department has a course catalog which lists all the courses you can potentially take during your graduate school. Apart from providing the course titles, most universities will supplement that with one-paragraph descriptions, instructor names, duration, offered semester, and number of credits. Similar to the admission requirements, this changes based on the university.

For example, Texas A&M lists all its mechanical engineering graduate courses with just a one-paragraph description on its site.* University of Washington goes further to create a separate page for each course—detailing your takeaways, syllabus, homework deadlines and more—from its list of courses.* Columbia University on the other hand provides you a flowchart of the courses you can take based on the specialization you are interested in.* Bottom line?

Course information will be on the department website.

If it isn’t, you should think twice about applying to that university.

Universities in the U.S. also go a step further to include course evaluations collected from past students. However, these are generally hidden behind an authentication portal, and not accessible to the public. It’s worth checking once, though.

Research

Here’s some good news for all the computer science graduates out there: a huge chunk of your work in collecting information on research conducted at U.S. universities has already been completed by the creators of CSRankings.* Below is a good introduction to the website, taken from its FAQ page:

Since a paper published in a tier one journal is not the same as a paper published in a tier three journal, the code takes this into account by only considering the conferences which are among the top in the respective domains. For example, only papers published in CVPR,* ECCV,* and ICCV* conferences are considered in the Computer Vision domain. It also uses an adjusted count when there is more than one contributing author so that the credit is divided equally among everyone (ergo more authors does not equal more value). The creator, Emery Berger,* who is a professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, used data from Google Scholar* and DBLP* to create this system.

When you navigate to the website, we recommend reading the FAQ and the advice* they have for aspiring graduates before looking at the rankings.

Even then, understand that the default rankings are based on all domains under computer science. You should deselect them all to then choose the domain of your interest on the left pane and see the results.

Look at the faculty under each university and navigate to their home pages to see the research being conducted.

CSRankings is a great tool—but not a flawless one. As you use it to narrow down your universities, understand that it was still created by people who have biases.

Time to DIY

We know this still doesn’t answer the question for all of you non-computer science graduates out there. Fret not. There are always different layers of solving an issue.

You might be using novel digital tools today to perform calculations. But have you ever wondered what people used to use before Google Sheets came into the picture? Or Microsoft Office? Or VisiCalc?

Just paper.*

Source: The sales ledger from Lou Groen’s opening day of business, January 13, 1959, at his first McDonald’s in Monfort Heights, Ohio. Image courtesy of Paul Groen. Smith, A. K. “The Fishy History of the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish Sandwich.” Smithsonian Magazine. (March 1, 2013).

Good old, plain white paper.

It wasn’t pretty, but it got the work done.

Although there isn’t a ready-made solution available, you’re just a few hours of research away from getting what you need. CSRankings built the ranking system based on data from sources such as Google Scholar and DBLP, which are readily available for you to view. So if you were to do it yourself, first identify the professors whose research you find interesting from your department’s research page. From there, you can navigate to the pages of these professors on the aforementioned aggregator sites to gain insight on their present and past work.

Stem Certification

Last but not the least, if you plan to pursue your graduate studies in the U.S., please check if your major is STEM certified.

Glad you asked.

statsEvery eligible graduate student in the U.S. gets a 12-month period post degree completion, called Optional Practical Training (OPT), to work with an eligible employer and learn on the job.* Here comes the best part: if you’re an F1 student earning a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), you are eligible for a 24-month extension on top of the 12 months received by everyone.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states that:*

To qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension, an F-1 student participating in an initial period of regular

  • Have a degree in an eligible STEM field from a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school that is accredited when the student submits their STEM OPT extension application to USCIS.

  • Pursue their STEM OPT extension through an employer that is enrolled in USCIS’s E-Verify employment eligibility verification program.

  • Select a STEM OPT employer that provides the student with formal training and learning objectives.

  • Work a minimum of 20 hours per week per employer.

At this stage, you should only be concerned about the first point, which says your degree must be in an eligible STEM field from a school that is SEVP certified. If you’re wondering how to get that information, you can easily find it on the DHS website.* This list is curated by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This isn’t a list set in stone, however. They keep updating it and even mention that you can request for a degree to be added by emailing SEVP.*

Career Prospects

In an ideal world, universities would publish information on every alumni’s job role, company, and salary in a massive database that can be queried. But in reality, this information is not available to the extent you would want, since universities that don’t have a great history tend to obfuscate this with less important data. For example, the Management Science and Engineering department at Columbia University does a reasonably good job of giving you all the numbers you need.* On the other hand, we couldn’t find the data at all for the Computer Science department at Virginia Tech.* Nevertheless, your first layer of research should once again begin with your department’s website.

Apart from spending time on the department site, we recommend resorting to platforms that pool this information. The professional networking site LinkedIn is your best bet here. We will detail best practices in creating a LinkedIn profile in a later chapter, but for now, use it to collect data on the alumni.

LinkedIn lets you look at the alumni of any institution and glean some basic categorical information on where they live, what they do, and what they majored in, and more.* You can also filter these fields to, say, look for students who majored in economics at Stanford University and are currently working at Apple in the U.S.*

Using LinkedIn, you can reasonably answer the question: What are some of the common career paths a student follows after graduating from [university] with a degree in [major]?

To find out details on the salary of a role, you can either use the inbuilt feature in LinkedIn* or resort to other platforms that also have this information, like PayScale* and Glassdoor.*

Other Miscellaneous Factors

This could mean anything, but the most common factors we recommend you look at are the ranking, location, and living expenses.

Ranking, as we saw before, is not the best metric to measure your experience. However, it would be naive on our part to suggest not looking at it. We recommend triaging your information by looking through the multiple ranking sites mentioned before: QS World Rankings, Times Higher Education Rankings, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities. Rather than looking at the overall ranking of a university, search for the ranks pertaining to your department wherever available.

Location is an important part of your experience. If you’re used to living in the city all your life, filled with bustling restaurants and theaters, it would be a difficult transition to study at a university that is situated deep in a rural area, such as Dartmouth College. On the flip side, someone who cherishes peace and quiet would be unnerved with the city that never sleeps, a.k.a. New York.

danger Another good reason to check the location would be to understand the weather. The weather can go to extremes during winter in the U.S., as seen in the map below for the month of December, created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.* Note that the temperatures are in Fahrenheit, not Celsius.

Source: Average monthly temperature for 2019-12-00. NOAA Climate.gov

Finally, you can get an estimate of your living expenses by using an online website calculator. At a first glance, the increase in the cost of living will certainly alarm you. In fact, it took me more than a year to stop converting USD to INR every time I purchased food or groceries. We can’t stop you from going through that phase, but we can tell you that you won’t just have a higher cost of living in the U.S., you will also have a higher salary and benefits. Eventually, it will balance out the cost. For example, there seems to be a 566% increase in the rent from Hyderabad to Seattle for a modest studio spanning 480 square feet.* While that estimate is true, it doesn’t take into account the difference in average salary between both locations (which is in the order of 400%).

The U.S. is indeed a more expensive country to live in, but not as much as you would think from a first glance.

Other Resources for University Data

For all the quadrants above, the best way to get qualitative data is to reach out to your seniors and friends who’ve taken this path already. While reaching out to these individuals, always be respectful of their time. Rather than sending a LinkedIn invite and asking for a 30-minute phone call out of the blue, create a Google Doc with the list of questions you want to ask them and send over the link after they agree to help you out. This way, you get your questions answered at a time of their convenience without going through the hassle of scheduling a call (not to mention the ordeal of different time zones).

Because you want to be a satisficer, talk to no more than two current or past students per university at this point.

Another less personal but more time-saving option is to comb through answers on Quora* and Reddit,* which have dedicated spaces for past students to write about their experiences.

We totally get it. Collecting all of these resources sounds like too much of a hassle to apply to universities. You’re thinking, can I not just apply to the top ten universities from QS Rankings for my major? But remember, we want you to be a satisficer right now. We don’t expect you to go through every course description in detail and look at all alumni from a university.

All the resources should be used as a way to eliminate universities rather than select them.

Let’s switch back to the example of buying a house. In the beginning, you don’t go through every single listing on Zillow in detail and note down the features. Rather, you’re simply browsing through dozens of listings to eliminate the ones that don’t meet your minimum requirements. Which means you first need to create your set of minimum requirements. For a house, that might be the following: I’m looking for all options that are under the budget of $500,000, have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and accept a down payment of 15%.

We humans have gotten really good at making decisions as we evolved. Rather than looking at every single factor and optimizing for the best possible outcome, we opt for an approach that only looks at the few factors we deem to be important, and then attach appropriate weight to them. Let’s do the same for narrowing down universities.

Introducing Your Best Friend

Your best friend throughout this journey is not this book. Rather, it is a Google Sheet titled Dream Tracker that resides in the Resources folder we gave you access to. You will be using this sheet a lot as you read these chapters, so now is a good time to open it and explore the different components inside.

We know it gets chaotic very soon as you begin this process. To alleviate some of that, we built a tracker that you can use for various parts of your application: keeping track of applications, letters of recommendation, finances, scholarships, networking, estimating the loan amount, and choosing your universities.

actionIf you open the Choosing Universities sheet in there, you will see a lot of columns with pre-populated numbers. We pretty much created a column for all the factors we went through so far in the chapter and assigned some dummy values. Now, your job is to turn these dummy values into meaningful scores that will help you make the decision.

The Five-Step Elimination

Step 1: First Round

First, we want you to collect a list of 20–25 universities for your major based on information from various ranking sites, seniors, and general research on Q&A forums.

Go through the Requirements for each university and populate just those columns in the sheet wherever you can.

Once you’re done with that, eliminate all the universities where you don’t satisfy the requirements. It’s OK to keep two or three that you’ve dreamed of joining, but be sure to mark this appropriately in the Category column.

Step 2: Setting Priorities

Now, we’ve got a list of universities you have a shot at (with a few Dreams).

Let’s take a step back and think about the most important thing that you care about for each factor under the quadrants Academia, Career, and Miscellaneous. The table below gives you an example.

QuadrantFactorWhat Matters
AcademiaCoursesI want to study Computer Vision, Entrepreneurship, and Reinforcement Learning
AcademiaResearchI want to conduct research on human computer interaction (HCI)
CareerTop Career PathsI want to become a Product Manager at an AR/VR company
CareerAverage SalaryI want to earn $100,000+ so I can pay back my loan within three years
MiscRankingI want my department to be within top 20 in that major
MiscLocationI want to live in a metropolitan city

thinkYou don’t have to strictly adhere to the example above and have a requirement for each factor. You also don’t need to treat them all with equal importance. Think about which factor matters more to you.

For example, If you have always dreamt of living in Silicon Valley, it makes sense to place a higher weight on the location over the ranking.

So write down what matters most in each of the areas and then rank them according to your priorities. Once you’re done ranking them, assign appropriate weights in the row titled Weights in the Dream Tracker. We gave it all a weight of 1, but you should change it based on your preferences.

Step 3: Second Round

Now use all the tools we mentioned in this chapter to gather the data you need. Look over the list of universities you have currently and remove the ones that don’t satisfy your requirement for each of the areas. For example, if taking a course and eventually specializing in human computer interaction is very important to you, then look at the course catalog and description of each university to eliminate the ones that don’t offer it.

If you end up having to eliminate almost all the universities, then revisit the factors and only use the top two or three to eliminate. At the end of this exercise, you should be left with a list of approximately ten universities, give or take two.

Step 4: Assigning Scores

Finally, you can begin assigning scores to all the universities under each column. This is part objective, part subjective.

Taking the example of courses once again, dive deeper into the catalog offered by each of the universities. Read the description, syllabus, and takeaways if present. If the university offers specializations, then look through them and find out the ones that resonate with you.

danger As you’re assigning the scores, here’s an important tip: stay away from 3. Generally, when a 1–5 scale is used, the most common response would be 3, since it’s an easy way out when you’re in a dilemma. However, it will also dilute your response. So, as much as possible, avoid assigning 3.

Step 5: Final Round

You have the pre-final list of universities, the weights, and the scores. What is left is for you to categorize each of the universities as Safe, Moderate or Dream. This should be assigned based on the requirement specified by the university along with its reputation and general knowledge. We all know MIT is better than Miami University.

Once the categorization is complete, pick the top six to eight universities with a split of 11 (or close) with the Safe, Moderate, and Dream tag. For example, if you wish to apply to seven universities, then apply to the top two Safe ones, top three Moderate ones, and top two Dream ones.

We recommend not applying to more than eight universities.

Why?

First, finishing an application takes a significant amount of time and effort. Having to do this amidst your already busy life should be taken into consideration. Second, if you picked your universities and chances right, you wouldn’t need to apply to more than a few to know that you will get into one. Picking fewer will also let you allocate more time per university. Finally, each application carries a fee between $50 to $100. That could add up to over $1000 if you don’t limit yourself in this step.

Yes, just one final note! Each university you apply to expects you to submit either two or three letters of recommendation. On average, professors don’t give out more than three letters. We will talk in detail about this in a later chapter, but keep in mind the number of letters you would need as you apply to more universities.

With that, we’ve reached the end of one of the longer chapters in the book. We will revisit some of the concepts you learned in this chapter once again later in the book when you’re tasked with making that final decision. You will then be immensely grateful to your past self for putting in the work right now. So begin the work needed to make the life of your future self a lot easier.

Final Thoughts on Narrowing Down Universities

Narrowing down the list of universities is difficult not because of a lack of information, but because of too much of it. This is why you need to follow the role of a satisficer, someone who settles for a good enough solution that meets a preset threshold. You can be a maximizer when the time comes to pick your dream university.

It is tempting to use ranking as a dealbreaker while choosing universities. But, it is not a good representation of your experience. There are a plethora of other factors to consider. First, we divided these into four quadrants: requirements, academia, career, and miscellaneous. Next, we gave you the resources needed to obtain information for all these quadrants. And finally, most importantly, we walked you through a five-step framework that you can use to do a pretty good job of narrowing down the universities from over 25 to under 8. The most important step here is to write down what matters the most to you in each of the factors and assign appropriate priority among them. This entire process should be thought of as one of elimination, rather than one of selection. We will revisit some of these concepts once again in a later chapter when you are tasked with picking your dream university.

With so many options out there, you will find it hard to reach a point when you feel the work is complete. That is why it’s important to begin with a threshold on the number of applications, either based on financial constraints or other personal factors. If you’ve followed the structure we’ve detailed in the chapter closely, we can assure you that you can’t go wrong.

A Little Reflection on Choosing Universities

thinkWhen was the last time you were a maximizer? A satisficer?

What are the top three factors that matter the most to you during your graduate school experience?

What are the top three factors that matter the least to you during your graduate school experience?

Who are five seniors you can reach out to from different universities to get valuable insights?

Building a Big Picture

Mise en place.

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