Finding a Graduate School

How do I select MY graduate program?

The best way to select a graduate program is to evaluate WHY you want to pursue graduate work. Take your academic, professional, and personal goals into consideration to the find the program of best fit for you. Then you may ask yourself the following questions:

  • What matters most to you? Reputation, size, employability, faculty-student ratio, location, equipment, student or faculty profiles?
    • Know your priorities! They are unique and they are your own. Then, use that lens to consider rankings such as the U.S. News and World Report and the extensive rankings list on About.com for your research.

Once you have determined your priority list, compare and contrast your options. For instance:

  • How much will it cost?
    • Consider tuition, books, fees, living expenses, and any loans you will need.
    • Is there any financial aid available?
    • Are graduate assistantships or fellowships available? How do you find out about them?
    • How about non-financial costs? Graduate school can put stress on relationships, so make sure you have these conversations early with significant others in your life in order for you to have the support you will need.
  • Are you academically prepared fr the program?
    • What types of test scores must you have? Is there a minimum score for acceptance?
    • You do not have to pick the same discipline in graduate school as your undergraduate major! In the case of Law, Social Work, Public Health, Student Affairs, and Medicine, for example, there are few corresponding undergraduate majors. However, the graduate school may require you to take core undergraduate courses within the discipline before considering your application. This information can be obtained from the university's application information or by contacting the program directly.
  • Does the program emphasize areas in your field that fir your career interests and goals?
    • This can relate to research, theory, or practice.
    • Will you be eligible for licensure, if applicable? Are the program requirements consistent with professional licensing requirements?
    • Are there any alternative programs in other departments that will train you for the same or similar career options? Consider professional associate certificate programs, online master's degree programs, international graduate programs, or postbachelor's internships and fellowship programs (highly competitive).
    • Where have recent graduate obtained jobs? What are typical jobs for their graduates?
  • Are the libraries, laboratories, and other research facilities adequate for your needs?
  • Does the faculty have special strengths and strong academic reputations, as determined by the quality of their research projects and published works?
    • Is there someone on the faculty you want to work directly with on their research?
  • Does the program offer interesting internships, apprenticeships, practicum opportunities, or field-work experience?
    • How are these obtained and are they required?
    • Who would be your supervisor? Would the experience count toward professional licensing requirements?
  • What is the program's reputation within the professional community you will be entering?
    • Ask several of your professors and professionals in your field to get a feel for this.

When should I go?

Graduate schools accept students right out of undergraduate school as well as those who have not seen the inside of a university in 15 years. It is most important that the "timing" of graduate school fit your career and personal time clock. Take into account these considerations:

  • Do you need time to save up for graduate school?
  • How about time to travel? Would you be able to do this with your program?
  • Do you want to have practical work experience in your field before applying?
    • Some graduate programs prefer students who have work experience, and some will not accept students without some previous work experience. Check with each individual program when applying.
  • Have you clarified your career goals?
    • Take time to do so before committing to a graduate program.

How many programs should I apply to?

Students apply to an average of five graduate schools. Your preliminary research on graduate schools should give you an idea of the number of applications received versus the number of students accepted by each graduate school. This will help you determine how many applications will give you the highest possibility of acceptance into a graduate program. Keep in mind that typically there are sizable application fees for each program to which you apply. If you are not accepted, you can re-apply the following year. Contact the graduate admissions committee to find out how you can strengthen your application, and your candidacy for admission will be considered anew. Your application will be reviewed and ranked on the merits of the new information that is received.