Once you have made the decision to go to graduate school, the next step is to research programs that match your interests and fit your needs. Don't limit yourself at this point, but instead gather information on a broad range of programs.
Talk to faculty on campus and at other institutions that teach in the field you plan to pursue - they often can provide you with the best information that will help steer you in the direction of good programs.
Since most universities have websites, the Internet is a great resource to find information quickly and easily. Some sites will provide complete information, while others may tell you where to write to get additional information.
Contact programs directly to get more detailed program information such as courses, costs, financial aid and application forms.
At Career Services, and the campus library, you will find books, brochures, catalogs, directories and guides that list information on universities that grant graduate or professional degrees. One such guide is the Peterson's Guide to Graduate and Professional Programs, which contains both short and long descriptions of virtually all accredited graduate programs.
Conduct informational interviews with current graduate students, professionals and faculty in the graduate program you are considering to gain insider information about programs.
Read professional and academic journals related to your area of interest.
Deciding Where to Apply
After researching your options, the next step is to decide where to apply. Here are some factors to consider when evaluating programs:
- The Reputation of the Faculty - What are their academic degrees/credentials and research specialties? What is the student/faculty ratio? Some faculty may have websites that include some of the above information.
- The Quality of the Program - This is measured by many different factors, many of which are mentioned below. Talk to several faculty members and graduate students in the field you are pursuing to get an informed view on the variety of graduate programs available. You may choose to look at graduate school rankings to help you assess a program's quality; however, you need to realize that the rankings may be based on criteria that are different from your own and that many scholars, deans and advisors question the validity of such rankings.
- Financial Cost of the Program - What are the opportunities for fellowships, assistantships or scholarships? What other sources of financial aid are available?
- The Program Requirements - You must satisfy to gain admittance into the program in terms of GPA test scores, undergraduate coursework and specific entrance examinations.
- Available Course Offerings - Are courses you need to fulfill degree requirements frequently offered? Will the course offerings help you meet your professional or educational goals?
- Facilities - Consider the quality of on-site facilities such as libraries, computer labs and research facilities.
- Employment - Where are graduates of the program working; and how much are they earning?
- Geographic Location - Will studying in a particular location help you meet personal professional goals?
- Student Life - Consider the diversity of students, student organizations, housing and campus support services.