Selecting a graduate school is a complicated decision that will have lasting implications for your personal and professional life. There are several important factors to consider in coming to a sound decision about the right graduate program for you. This list of questions provides a useful framework for your graduate school search.
Do you know your reasons for wanting to attend graduate school? Are your reasons sound ones?
- To enhance your academic background?
- For prestige?
- To ultimately attain a better job?
- Because it is required to enter your chosen profession?
- Because you are uncertain about other alternatives?
- Does the primary identity or emphasis of the program suit your educational goals?
- Will the curriculum provide you with the background you desire?
- What are the instructional methods: lecture, seminar, etc.?
- What are the admission requirements?
- Does the department prefer to select candidates from undergraduate programs or does it prefer applicants have work experience in their field?
- Does the program offer any planned practical experiences such as teaching, assistantships or internships?
- What is the total cost of the program?
- Over how many years?
- Are fellowships and other financial aid available?
- How many students receive such aid?
- What is the likelihood of your being an aid recipient?
- What is the student/faculty ratio?
- What is the educational background of faculty members?
- What is the depth, diversity and availability of the faculty?
- Do the faculty members in the department represent a variety of points of view toward the discipline?
- Are the graduate faculty members available to the students for in-class and beyond-the-classroom contact?
- Are you familiar with faculty publications that can provide you with insight about faculty members’ specialties and interests, and how they compare with your own?
- How comprehensive are the labs and other training facilities?
- How extensive are the library facilities?
- Are they current and accessible?
- Are there specialized research facilities available?
- Are cooperative programs with other educational, cultural and research institutions available?
Talking with students and faculty can provide a perspective not found in written materials.
- What is the geographical representation of the student body?
- What is the percentage drawn nationally? regionally? from within the state?
- Is the student body diversified?
- How many are first-year students?
- What is the average length of time to degree?
- What is the attrition rate?
- Do students in the department frequently fail to complete their degree requirements? If so, why?
It may be useful to visit the school and to talk with students about what they expect to be doing when they graduate.
- Are graduates and degree candidates successful in finding employment?
- What kinds of positions do they accept?
- To what extent is the department or school helpful in this process?