So you have decided to attend graduate school, and have even picked out your top programs. Congratulations! Finding the program that fits in the master plan (pun intended) is half the battle. But now what do you do?
One option is to apply to all of the schools on your list, and just hang back and wait for the acceptance letters to roll in. However, this is probably not the best option because you don’t really “know” which program is a good fit for you just by looking at their website. This is especially true if you’re applying to out-of-state schools or schools different than your undergraduate alma mater. There are many variables to consider in addition to job placement/graduation rates and the cost of tuition. Below is a guide that I found helpful when deciding where to start my graduate career.
Visit the Campus– While all the pictures and virtual tours are wonderful tools, you can’t get the “vibe” of the campus from online media alone. Schedule a tour with the Admissions Office, as the tour guides will be able to give you an in-depth view of the campus, as well as the many resources that will be available to you once enrolled. While you are there, exploring on your own is another great option because you see how easy/difficult it is to navigate campus. Although for some it may not matter as much, when making hard choices between a few schools, the campus atmosphere could steer you in one direction over another.
Meet with Current Students in the Program– Graduate students are earning their degrees because they WANT to, making them a great source of information when making a decision. They are truly living their program, and will be able to give you an honest opinion about everything: the internship opportunities available, the workload requirements, where to study, where to decompress, how approachable the professors are, and whether you can balance a full-time job while attending graduate school. It doesn’t have to be a formal meeting; just meeting with a few students for coffee lets you dig into why they are there and what they are doing without any pressure. Eventually, you might be one of them, so it’s a good idea to see what they’re like.
Meet with the Director of the Program– Program director meetings can seem intimidating, but don’t let them be! The Program Director wants the best fit for their program, and they will do everything they can to help you decide if it is for you or not. They will be able to tell you what current students are doing, what alumni are doing, the type of classes that will be offered, and the various research opportunities available. You are investigating them as much as they are investigating you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Visit the City– You’re going to be spending at least the next few years of your life calling this place home, so figuring out if you would enjoy living there goes a long way in making your decision. Check out what there is to do outside of the school and don’t be afraid to ask the locals for their opinions as well. What’s the crime rate? Is it easy to get around with or without a car? If you live close to campus, do you even need a car? Can you afford to live there? Are there ample employment opportunities?
Follow Your Prospective Schools on Social Media– A great way to keep up with the program after your visit, is to follow them on social media. Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, Twitter, and Instagram are usually geared toward current students, thus providing insights into daily student life. This also allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of the program and the campus, giving you a better idea of your potential fit with the program and the entire campus.
Here in the Master of Arts in Communication Program at the College of Charleston, we welcome all prospective graduate students to come and take advantage of our hospitality. The deadline to apply for the Fall 2016 cohort is March 1, 2016. We are excited to show you why we love our program, school and city. If you have any questions, or would like to schedule a visit, please contact Dr. Amanda Ruth-McSwain, the Director for the Master of Arts in Communication Program, via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (843-953-5783). We look forward to meeting you soon!