Grad school applicants often underestimate the importance of identifying potential dissertation chairs and mentioning that match in their applications. Finding the perfect mentor and future dissertation chair is a key factor to consider as you narrow your list of schools and prepare your applications.

“The best way to choose the right school for you is to review the top schools of your choice and then make sure there are professors studying your specific area of interest,” says Senior Consultant Heather MacNeill.

The reason for this is quite simple. Graduate admissions are highly competitive. Many of the top programs in the nation only have a few open seats available each academic year.

Given a high ratio of applicants to open seats, the faculty members serving on admissions committees tend to approve candidates with research interests overlapping their own. You’ll maximize your admissions chances by persuading the admissions committee that you have researched their program and feel confident that it is the right fit for you, especially in terms of your research compatibility with the faculty.

In addition to identifying faculty members who are interested in your field of expertise, you must also consider whether or not these faculty would be available to work with you when you do your research. Heather notes, “It is fairly important to contact potential professors when applying to Ph.D. programs. Because you may be working closely with them, you need to know if they are accepting new students or if they are on sabbatical or otherwise unable to take new students.”

– Senior Consultant Heather MacNeill gained extensive graduate admissions experience during her former service as Assistant Director of Graduate Admission at Pacific University. She also worked in graduate admissions for the Oregon Graduate Institute at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).

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