Researching Graduate Schools and Programs
In last week’s post about applying to a graduate school, one of the first steps I mentioned was the need to research schools and programs. If you have the liberty to attend any school, you will want to compare several schools and programs. There are a number of resources that can help you as you research options.
Do your research
If you are an undergraduate, you want to take advantage of your college’s career and education fairs. These are usually held during the fall semester, and are scheduled by the campus career center. Alumni are usually invited to these fairs, too.
Of course, the internet is a great resource. Explore websites dedicated to graduate education such as www.gradschools.com and www.petersons.com. While you’re visiting college websites, be sure to explore individual faculty pages as well as the university and department websites.
Don’t hesitate to make contact with a school at multiple levels: the graduate school office, the departmental office, key faculty members and student associations you would like to join after admission. Also, speak with friends of your family who are prominent alumni, and even current graduate students.
Questions you’ll need answered
- How much will the program cost? What financial aid is available?
- Does the department’s specialization match your goals?
- Does the faculty exhibit special strengths and research qualities through their graduate advisees, published works and funded research?
- Are the libraries, laboratories, computers and other resaerch facilities adequate for your educational needs?
- Does the department offer a sufficiently large and varied curriculum to allow you a broad offering of courses and options?
- How accomplished are the professors in your area? What are their interests and how available will they be?
- What are the degree requirements? Number of hours required? Will you have to write a thesis or dissertation?
- Are support services adequate to make campus life conducive to the needs of minority students?
- How long will it take you to complete the program?
- How are advisors assigned/selected? Will you have a choice of who your major advisor will be?
- What are the course and thesis/dissertation requirements?
- Are study space/office carrels available for graduate students?
- Are the current students happy? Do they appear to be good colleagues?
- Are the graduates of the school/program sought by recruiters?
- What are your opportunities for employment after graduation?
- Are the institution and the program accredited?
- How many applicants are accepted?
- Are the faculty and student body diverse? Diversity in a program can make it stronger, since diversity leads to a broader world view.
- What size is the program? Will you feel comfortable in a small or large setting?
- What is the community like, and does the institution work closely with the community? How closely the two work together will assist you in your research and with employment opportunities after graduation.