I am applying to graduate schools this year for a master's degree.

I've read that some universities will reject some "strong" applicants because they believe this student would be accepted by a "top" university and would rather go there.

I am specifically interested in a particular university (which is not considered a "top" university) because their profile in my area of interest is quite strong, and the location is much more preferable as per personal interests.

How do I make sure they won't reject me on the basis that I'd rather go elsewhere?
Is this not even a problem - and I'm worrying too much? Should I mention in my SoP that this university is my "top" choice?


2 Answers 2


I wouldn't phrase it exactly like that and I wouldn't spend too many words on it but it is probably fine to mention it briefly.

But if you can say why you are particularly interested in study at this university it won't hurt and might have a small impact.

But, as always, focus the SoP on what you intend to study, to accomplish in study and in your career.

The "location" being important isn't going to help you however. Certain professors on their faculty would be more impactful. Or a research seminar that continues there.

  • 1
    Isn't a major problem in grad school admissions estimating yield, in which case knowing the location is a plus for OP would help? Jan 2, 2023 at 14:36

I won't say something obvious, like "I'm interested in your school because of its strong reputation in x,y,z". The SOP is an opportunity to say something really specific about how your research interests align with their school/faculty/department ethos, etc. Do some digging on each school and the professors you want to work with, and say something that demonstrates a unique and sincere connection, e.g. "Professor XXX's research on xxxxx strongly relates to my current studies in xxxx. If admitted to XXX University, I hope to xyz.... You can sprinkle in really specific details simply by looking on their professional website or looking up talks they've been a part of, etc. Also, the passion for their research should be sincere. I only include the names of professors that I genuinely would like to work with.

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