In my grad school workshops I usually tell people that my number one piece of advice is that you need to be prepared to apply to more than one grad school, in fact the more the better.
Most people that I work with have one program in mind and they haven’t thought much outside of that option. But the reality of the situation is that this entire process is full of things you can’t control, and the more options you give yourself then the more chances you have to get an acceptance. Even people with perfect GPAs, stunning letters of recommendation and stellar CV’s are still basically folding their application into a paper boat and floating it down a river, with no control over what happens next. Now, don’t let me discourage you, the work that you will be doing to prepare and revise your application package will pay off for you in a big way. You’ll be giving yourself the best shot you can at acceptance, but your application will also be among the applications of other people who spent time and energy.
The more place you apply, the more chances you get to have your application meet with all the right circumstances. You give yourself multiple chances to get the one reviewer who had a great breakfast that morning and is in the perfect mood to read your essay. You also give yourself another shot when your application lands in the hands of the professor who is in a bad mood, had read ten shitty essays in a row, and now is prepared to deny yours immediately. All of these situations can, and will happen, along with a bunch of situations you would never guess in a million years. The more times you put your application package out there, the more shots you have at getting your awesome application into the right hands at the right time.
Now that you have my best piece of advice, I’ll give you my second best in the next post.