If you’ve been thinking about what to do after uni and found yourself asking “how many graduate schemes should I apply to?” then you won’t be the only one. As the end of term comes into view, many soon-to-be-grads will be preparing to send off their applications, but just how many to send off tends to be in the back of their minds.
Below, we’ll take a look at the number of graduate schemes you should apply for in more detail, along with some top tips you can use to strengthen your chances.
“How many graduate schemes should I apply to?”
Answering this question is a bit of a tricky one. For starters, there really isn’t any sort of magic number when it comes to the amount. Secondly, there are a lot of other factors to weigh up that’ll determine how many you can apply for. Really, you could apply to as many as you want, but it’s a good idea to be choosy with who you apply for. Biting off more than you can chew might end up diluting the quality of your applications.
So, with that, let’s weigh up the question in more detail.
There’s a lot of work that goes into applying to even a single graduate scheme. You’ll have to research the company, the particular area of work, and decide whether it’s right for you – and that’s just in the run-up to the application alone. The application itself will take up a lot of time too.
As tempting as it may be, you can’t use the same application for each and every graduate scheme you like the look of. You’ll have to create individual applications that refer to the specifics mentioned in the grad scheme’s opening.
And since these schemes are so incredibly competitive, you could well be competing with a few hundred other applicants for a place. This means that the standard is more than likely going to be on the high side. When you’re spread across applying to more graduate schemes than you can handle, then you could well find it difficult to maintain the quality across your applications.
Graduate scheme processes don’t just consist of a written application either. There are interviews and assessment centre activities you’ll have to take part in. And that means more preparation. Should you successfully advance through the initial screening process, then trying to balance too much preparation for these next stages is going to hamper your chances of making it any further.
Clearly, it’s a case of quality over quantity. You don’t want to apply to too few schemes and limit your chances, but you shouldn’t go overboard with them either. For this reason, applying for five graduate schemes is a sensible enough number to maintain quality across your various applications.
It’s also a good idea to prioritise the graduate schemes you want to apply for, too. Try splitting the companies into two tiers: a top tier for companies you’d really like to work for, and a second tier for the companies that it would be nice to work for, but you aren’t as enthusiastic about. For companies in the second tier, look at the application process as a way of understanding what they involve. Once you’ve got more of a handle on that, focus on putting in more time for research and preparation when it comes to your top-tier companies.
How to prepare for graduate schemes
What can you do to improve your chances at the application stage? Here are some top tips to keep in mind when it’s time to get applying…
- Know which schemes you want to apply for
It’s easy to be tempted to apply for the grad schemes you’ve seen your friends or coursemates apply for. But this is your future and career, after all. So rather than simply following what others are doing, go for the schemes that you know you’re passionate about at companies that you can see yourself working for. If a company’s values clash with your own, then it’s probably best to track down ones who hold dear the same things that you do.
You might want to start researching the career paths that graduates of your degree tend to follow. Or while you’re still at uni, try scoping out careers fairs – here, you’ll be able to get to know more about graduate schemes, and the roles you might want to pursue, from people who work there, who were maybe in the same position you were a few years ago.
- Tailor your CV to each scheme
You can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to every scheme you’re applying for, unfortunately. You definitely don’t want to accidentally forget to change the name of the company you’re applying for in your cover letter (believe us, this happens more than you might think).
While it’s definitely time-consuming, creating fresh CVs and cover letters that are specifically tailored to each graduate scheme is well worth doing. With this approach, you can highlight the skills and experience that are relevant to the scheme’s role in more detail.
- Research the application process
Since there’s a lot that goes into applying for a graduate scheme, it’s well worth researching the application process so you know what to expect from it. You can find plenty of candid information from previous applicants online, and it’s these insights which can help make the whole process a little easier.
And remember, not all application processes are the same. One scheme may require a CV, another scheme might not. Let’s say you’ve spent a good few hours preparing a cover letter, only to find out you didn’t actually need one when it came time to actually apply – researching things ahead of time can help out with this in a big way.
- Give yourself plenty of time to apply
Applying for graduate schemes isn’t something you should leave to the last minute. If you do, there’s a good chance that spelling mistakes and grammatical errors might creep in, and key information gets left out. In fact, leaving it too late could mean missing the application window entirely.
This is where familiarising yourself with each scheme’s application process can come in handy. Certain graduate schemes will ask you to carry out things like personality, aptitude, and ability tests, which may take a while to complete. But once you know what you need to do, you can start planning out how much time you need to properly apply with focus and care.
Also, getting someone to read through your application before you send it off makes sure nothing ends up slipping through the cracks.
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful! Applying to graduate schemes takes time, but it’s well worth getting right. Made it to the next stage and looking for insights and advice on how to ace the interview? Check out our graduate scheme interview tips right here.
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