Choosing a Graduate School
Many college graduates and professionals going back to school to earn an advanced degree struggle with how to go about choosing a graduate school. Since there are thousands of colleges and universities to choose from many students get dizzy just looking at the graduate school list of choices. Choosing a graduate school to earn an advanced degree is just like making any other major decision. You have to take a look at the cold hard facts for each school that you are considering and then narrow down your options based on which school is the best option for you.
Request the college brochure from each school that you are thinking about applying. If you do not find your answers there, look at their web site, call the admissions office, and speak with former students of the institution. Here is a list of questions that you should ask in order to make an informed decision about your graduate school choice.
Overall Quality of the School & Your Program of Study
First, you need to research and review the overall quality of the school and the program of study that you are interested in pursuing. The school is not an entity of itself. It is made up of the students that attend it, the teachers, faculty and administrators, the surrounding community, etc. In pursuing an overall rating of the quality of the school you should dive deeper into each of these areas.
What types of students are currently enrolled in the program of study that you are interested in pursuing?
What is the average GPA for the program?
After graduation from the program, where have some of the students gone on to work and what have they been able to achieve?
Answers to these questions will help you to paint a picture of what the student body is like and whether or not the quality is at the level that you wish to associate yourself with.
When it comes to graduate schools a lot of what shapes the program's reputation is the faculty. Depending on what your course of study is, it becomes more important to your development to be able to learn from some of the highest achieved and well-known professionals than it is to attend a famous university. The college can provide you with a list of their faculty. Read articles that they have published. This will give you an overall sense of the caliber of the faculty in your program.
Find out how much funding the school has to provide students with esteemed faculty and the technology and equipment that are needed in your program of study. Are their adequate library resources, meaning does the program have the money that is required to keep the library equipped with the most current information and resources?
Make sure that the overall purpose of the program is in line with what you expect to get out of studying there. Find out what the faculty to student ratio is and make sure that you are comfortable with it. In a graduate program, the curriculum is more than just the actual classes that you will attend. The curriculum in a graduate course of study also has to do with internships and job placement services that will allow you to experience hands-on training while you are studying. The ultimate goal for most graduate students is to further their career and the types of services that your program offers to you with career placement is an important service.
It is important to attend an accredited school no matter what type of degree you are trying to obtain. Accreditation means that a school meets the guidelines to turn out educated graduates whose degrees are recognized worldwide, in most cases. Accreditation plays an especially important role in graduate school because, depending on your course of study, if your career choice requires licensure for you to work, a requirement is typically that you have earned your degree from an accredited institution.
University & Community
You will have to live, work and study on the school campus and within the community that surrounds the school. The size of the school, the location of the school and the surrounding community are also contributing factors to choosing a graduate school. The climate, extracurricular activities and employment opportunities are also things that should be taken into consideration.
There are financial resources available for attending graduate school just like there are for undergraduate school. Tally up the total cost for your graduate education for each school you are considering. Cost is a factor when making a major purchase of any kind, and an education is no exception to this rule. Just don't let the cost alone determine your decision. Try to consider all of the facts before making a decision on which school to attend.
Graduate students can apply for financial assistance that isn't available to other types of degrees.
Grants and Fellowship Awards. Grants and fellowships award money to graduate students. These are not loans that have to be paid back. Grants are usually given based on a financial need, while fellowships are usually earned as an achievement award.
Teaching & Research Assistantships
Graduate teaching assistants and research assistants can also work in their field of study at the university in exchange for money that can be applied to their education. These are appointed positions by the university that are usually based on academic achievement.
So when you are trying to decide which graduate school to choose, don't let the list of options make you dizzy. Obtain and take a good hard look at the facts, so that you will make an "educated" decision that will benefit you and your career in the long run.