Choosing a Graduate School

The vast majority of choices in life contain one common theme; you will be choosing between very different options.  The same can be said of graduate schools.  There are a few schools that are difficult to get in.  Some colleges place a stronger emphasis on research.  And there are some grad schools that are just plain tough.  You will need to consider several items when picking the right school for your needs and goals.

A good place to begin researching is the websites of the various schools.  Spend some time getting used to the lingo used by each school.  If you are unsure of the meaning of a word or phrase you should do a little research.  It will pay to make sure you understand all of the requirements of the program.

Do not choose a graduate school based on just one particular item such as cost or location.  The school is going to be on your resume for the rest of your working life.  You need to pick a place that will adequately prepare you for your chosen career in the industry that appeals to you.  To this end, you want to research various aspects such as the credentials of the faculty, minimum requirements for being admitted to the program, and the school’s general reputation in your chosen field.

If you are trying to locate specific information that cannot be easily found on the school’s website pick up the phone and call an admission counselor.  Getting a first impression from the counselor may help you solidify your decision about which school to pick.

Questions to Answer before Picking a School

  • What is the primary focus for this graduate degree? There are certain master’s programs ideally suited to people who wish to research after they have finished their degree.  Other programs lean towards working in private practice and some programs will properly prepare an individual for a teaching role.
  • Are you considering a campus environment or an online college? Each setting has good points and bad points.  You will need to do a self assessment to see which type of program best fits your needs and your style of learning.
  • What is the average graduation rate of this program? It is a good idea to find out the average graduation rate among the various schools that you are considering.  This could give you an idea of how tough the classes are and the likelihood of finishing the degree.
  • What is the school’s specialty? A graduate program may offer degrees across a wide range of topics but usually they have one or two that are their specialty.
  • What is the typical length of time needed to complete the degree? Most of the time a master’s degree can be earned in 2 years, sometimes even less.  This will help you to better plan your current schedule and your future career goals.
  • Is there adequate financial aid? The issue of cost is always a major concern for most students applying for a graduate program.  Besides contacting the financial aid office for any scholarships or grants, you should also ask if the school offers any fellowships.  Often times this type of program will allow you to work out your tuition rather than pay for it in funds.
  • How is the graduate school perceived in the industry? Certain schools enjoy a strong reputation in various industries.  This reputation makes it easier for graduates to find work once their degree is finished.  Depending on your career goals this may be a strong point to consider when choosing a school.
  • Are the alumni successful in similar fields to your choice?A school that has produced several successful people in a field that you are pursuing speaks volumes to the school’s credibility.
  • Do your credentials meet the requirements for admission? Talk with an admission counselor about your grades, the score you received on the graduate entrance exam and any other criteria that the school considers.  It is better to find out up front about your chances of admission.