When creating a list of possible schools to apply to, here are some things to consider. It is beneficial to start early with your search in order to provide yourself with ample time for research, gathering materials, discussing options, and planning visits to schools. Application deadlines vary depending on the program, and many programs may require an exam before entrance. As a result, starting early will help you organize your plan of action. As graduate school is an investment, you want to guarantee that you are making the best, educated choice you can.
Doing your research for potential schools is incredibly important. Much like how you did research for your undergraduate search, apply the same principles for your graduate search as well. Utilize rankings (e.g. US News or World Reports) and reviews, but with a critical eye. Do further research into different programs and their individual rankings as well. For instance, a school with a high overall ranking but a low ranking in the field you wish to study in may not be the one for you.
Visit the program and school websites, and consider what kind of graduate degree you want. Are you aiming for a Masters or a Doctorate? For your profession, is one preferred over the other? Think critically about the program(s) you want to enter and which schools can provide you with the education you need moving forward.
Factors to Consider
Type of Program
- What kind of degree does the program offer?
- How long will it take to complete the degree?
- Are internships offered with the program?
- Can you work while in the program?
- What is the ranking of the program itself (not just the school)?
Location and Size
- Consider where the university is located and how far you are willing to relocate. Most graduate schools do not offer housing on-campus, so will you be able to find housing off-campus?
- How big is the campus? How big are the classes?
- Do you prefer an urban area? Suburban? Rural?
- How much are you willing and able to spend on graduate school?
- Who will be paying for your studies?
- What is the cost of living in the area?
- Does the school provide scholarships or fellowships?
Furthermore, create a list of “deal breakers”. Consider things are most important to you and when compiling your list of schools, use your checklist to determine what schools are your top, middle, and bottom. Having a clear idea of what you want and what is important to you will help narrow down your search.
Visiting the School
Visit the schools you want to apply to! Go on tours and ask questions about the program. Visits and in-person conversation are the best ways to know if you will like a school without actually attending it.
Furthermore, connect directly with admission representatives. By meeting with admission representatives or program coordinators, you can learn more information that may not be online about your program. Be prepared to ask questions, and connect with faculty and students in-person.
Beyond visiting just the school, examine the area around the campus as well. As a graduate student, if you plan on living far from home, you may have to relocate. Determine if the surrounding area is a place you can see yourself living in for an extended period of time. If not, see where else you could possibly work and live.