Grad Schools: Where to Apply
The hardest part of making the decision to pursue a graduate degree may be choosing what grad schools to apply to. Many grad schools are extremely competitive, and mediocre students may have a hard time getting in. At the same time, a graduate degree from a relatively unknown grad school can be a waste of money. For this reason, Samiha Esha posted this advice on selecting a grad school:
Apply somewhere where you'll be among the most qualified students in that department. Unfortunately, we know about the same 10-15 schools when it comes to applying. Anyone who is applying anywhere will apply to MIT, UIUC, Purdue, GT, UT Austin, UC Berkley, Princeton, CMU, Cornell, U. Michigan, etc. These schools receive about 2100 applications per year for only 200 seats. On the other hand, there are schools which are eagerly waiting for a good student to come by. Any school in the US top 100 is "good enough". They all do good research and rank higher than the rest of the world. Graduates from any school can get a great job here/anywhere. Ditch your prejudices.
As far as the list of prospective schools goes, don't follow the rankings blindly. Look into little details. Things that matter include ranking, acceptance rate, average funding, peer ranking, recruiter ranking, etc.
When applying to grad schools, it's important to keep in mind that funding is everything if you don't want to end up with a ton of debt at the end of your degree program. Apply to schools that offer assistantships and fellowships so that some of the cost of the program as well as some of your living expenses will be covered. Additionally, send applications to as many schools as you're interested in. The application fees will set you back a bit, but it will increase your chances of getting into a school that's perfect for you.