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Pursuing Graduate School

The Search

Preparing for the search

First, create a spreadsheet of schools you are interested in. As you begin to find schools, this list will be very useful. Some things you may want to include in this are:

  • Program Title/Focus
  • Website
  • Length of Program
  • Cost and Funding Opportunities
  • Location
  • Faculty
  • Application Due Date

Getting started is as easy as a google search. This will give you ideas of what other programs offer and how many options you have. But there are other (and more efficient) ways of conducting this search, which includes:

When conducting your search, remember to network. Personal anecdotes can help you get a better understanding of a program. Consider the following:

  • Talk to faculty. Ask them about their experience and what program they went to. Ask what recommendations they have of programs that interest you.
  • Talk to current graduate students. Ask them about requirements of their programs, what research opportunities exist, and how they enjoy the location of the school. Here are some ideas for questions you could ask:

Choosing a Program

How do I choose a program?

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a graduate program, some more important than others. Weighing the following can help you make a better decision:

  • Program Mission
    • Program philosophy is important. Does the program focus on training, research, writing, etc.? Make sure that your mission for school aligns with the programs.
  • Location
    • This is very important, which shouldn’t be the main focus of your search. Consider the size of the town, distance from your current support system, the climate, and the atmosphere. Also consider the opportunities to meet new people and do things outside of school.
  • Length of Program
    • How long does the program normally take? Masters degrees typically range from 1-3 years, while the average PhD takes between 5-7 years. You should ask faculty and current students if they are completing their degree on time.
  • Program Outcomes
    • It’s important to know what students are doing after they graduate. Are they in academia? What other careers have graduates sought?
  • Advisor/Mentor             
    • Are there faculty members doing research you are interested in doing?
  • Funding
    • This is a key piece of choosing a program. You want to make sure that you are not going into debt that will be unreasonable to pay back. See if the program offers assistantships, fellowships, and other scholarship opportunities for graduate students.