What graduate programs will you apply to? Selecting a graduate school entails many considerations. It's not just a matter of determining your field of study - graduate programs in a given discipline may vary widely. Graduate programs differ in academics but also in training philosophies and emphases. In deciding where to apply, consider your own goals and directions as well as your resources. Consider the following:
Once you know your area of study and desired degree, the most basic considerations in selecting graduate programs to which to apply are location and cost. Many faculty will tell you to not be choosy about geographic location but remember that you will spend several years in graduate school. Be aware of your own preferences as you consider graduate programs. When selecting graduate school programs, look for those that will best meet your career and learning objectives. To do this, you must define your own needs and expectations so you can begin to select appropriate programs.
To establish your own criteria for selecting programs, answer the following questions:
- What must a graduate program offer academically in order to meet your career goals?
- What do you want to get out of a program?
- What size program/university do you want to attend?
- In what geographical locations are you willing to attend graduate school?
- What else might you want from a program?
Not all graduate programs in a given area, like clinical psychology, for example, are the same. Programs often have different emphases and goals. Study program materials to learn about faculty and program priorities. Are students trained to produce theory or research? Are they trained for careers in academia or the real world? Are students encouraged to apply findings outside of academic contexts? This information is hard to come by and must be inferred by studying faculty interests and activities as well as examining the curriculum and requirements. Do you find the classes and curriculum interesting?
Who are the faculty? What are their areas of expertise? Are they distinguished? Are they all about to retire? Do they publish with students? Can you see yourself working any of them, preferably more than one?
There are many things to consider when choosing graduate programs to which to apply. It may seem time intensive and overwhelming, but putting in the time to carefully select graduate programs will make it easier later on when you are accepted and must decide where to attend -- that decision is much more challenging.
Here are some general graduate school links that can help in your selection process
- Council of Graduate Schools: This site provides fellowships and awards for students. Go into "Programs and Awards" and then "Resources for Students".
- Gradview.com: Provides lots of information on graduate school including why (pros and cons), getting in (choosing, applying, financial aid), and surviving.
- GradSchools.com: An online directory of graduate school programs.
- National Association of Graduate-Professional Students
- Online Graduate Programs - A site with diverse perspectives and information about online graduate programs. Also information on how to apply to graduate school, whether graduate school is right for you, and tips for surviving graduate school.
- Petersons.com: One of the best sites on the Net for searching out graduate school programs.
- The Princeton Review: Not sure if grad school is for you? Check out this site's very informative articles.
- US News and World Report: Find graduate school rankings, articles and tools.