Choosing an Institution
If you’ve made the decision to go to graduate school, I’m assuming that you’ve also figured out what you are going to go to graduate school – what degree you are pursuing and what type of program you want to join. Now you have the difficult task of picking a specific institution. You need to find one that meets your needs, won’t break your budget, and that you will be happy to call your graduate school alma mater.
Searching the Surface
- Determine the geographic area that you are willing to consider. Maybe you are willing to move across the country for graduate school, but then again, maybe you have things that require you to stay closer to your current location.
- Search for schools in that area. This is a great way to get started. It won’t have every single graduate school, but it’s a pretty thorough listing. You can search by region, state, city, etc.
- When you find a school that interests you (whether it’s because of location, reputation, size, or some other deciding factor), the first thing you need to do is check to see if the institution offers the kind of program you need. If the school doesn’t have a program for your plans, go back to step 2. If they do, move on to “Searching the School”.
Searching the School
For each school with a seemingly appropriate program, do the following (eliminating schools as you go):
- Request information. Brochure materials, a graduate catalogue (if available in print – many schools are saving trees and hosting their catalogs online like us) and other available information on the program(s). This can be done on the school’s website (like ours here), by phone or mail/email. In addition, there are numerous websites that will allow you to directly request information from a school.
- Record the cost of tuition and fees, the number of credit hours required to complete the degree, and other details about the program. Some things to look for:
Is it a full-time program? / Will you be able to work and go to school?
How long is the program expected to last? 2 years? 4 years? More?
Where are courses offered? Online? At a main campus? At a secondary campus?
- Examine the admission requirements and fees associated with applying to the program.
- Once you have it narrowed down to a few schools, visit them if possible. At the very least, make contact with the program director to ensure that it is a good fit for you. If possible, speak with a current graduate student in the program.
- In the end, go with what feels right. You are about to commit to a school for the next few years of your life, you don’t want to spend it wishing you went somewhere else.