Selecting a Program and Planning for Graduate School
When you make the decision to pursue an advanced degree, how do you choose a program that best fits your needs? With so many schools to consider, how do you narrow down the list of those to which you will ultimately apply?
Getting your list of schools together requires some research; you want to give yourself about a year of time before you actually would like to start your program. Below are some tips for you while searching for the best graduate programs to fit your needs.
Your professors are a wealth of knowledge in this area. Most likely, they pursued a graduate degree themselves, and will have some opinions about programs in your field of interest. They will also have a good instinct for which programs have the best reputations, are on the rise, or are in a decline. If you are interested in a specific school, you can use the Saint Michael’s College catalog online to find faculty members who may have attended your school of choice. This is an invaluable resource to get firsthand information about a particular school or program.
Meet with a career counselor to establish your needs and for additional resources. Utilizing the following websites will also assist you in developing a list of programs:
Search for schools:
General graduate school information:
Rankings of programs:
People working in your field of interest
People who are currently employed in your field of study are excellent resources for finding out about career opportunities, salaries and "hot jobs" for the future. Start exploring with people you know, or make an appointment with a career counselor to obtain a list of Saint Michael’s alumni/ae who are pursuing graduate work or careers in that area.
These groups of working professionals act as resources for all types of information related to particular careers and industries.
Targeted Graduate Schools
Directly contact the graduate schools in which you are interested. The schools are usually more than happy to send you a catalog and application materials or refer you to their websites. Be aware that when you contact the schools, either by email or by phone, they are creating a file for you as a potential student. The person you initially contact about a program may be in a decision-making position about the graduate students accepted – keep all your contact professional.
Choosing the schools that are best for you: Criteria for Evaluation
Once you have made a decision about pursuing graduate studies, how do you narrow your choices to programs that are the best for you? To how many schools should you apply? The following is a comprehensive list of variables to consider as you plan your graduate career:
- Required entrance exams - DAT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc.
- Cost of application
- Essays required
- Interview process
- Undergraduate record
- Experience in the field of study
Type and quality of institution and program
- Department size - full and part-time faculty
- Student/faculty ratio
- Instructional style (classroom, self study, labs)
- Class size
- Entrance requirements
- Degree completion requirements
- How many years to complete program (Program catalog may say "average of 2 years to completion". You will want to check with students actually in the program to find out how long it REALLY takes.)
- Foreign language requirement
- Dissertation/thesis required
- Number of credits/classes to be completed
- Qualifying exams to pass before continuing in program
- Required GPA for passing (usually a 3.0)
- Master’s degree required "on the way" to Ph.D. or as a prerequisite for entering a doctoral program
Location and resources available
- Suburban vs. urban vs. rural campus
- Library size, number of volumes and resources, services available
- IT facilities, networks, support systems
- Student services - health, counseling
- Full-time and/or part-time programs
- Master’s, Ph.D., J.D., M.D., Certificate programs, and others
- Specialization in chosen field
Placement services and statistics
- Career services available
- Campus recruitment – number of employers who recruit on campus, percentage of graduates hired, number of interviews
- Company literature available
- Career library resources
- Percentage of graduates employed - where, positions, salary
- Student population characteristics - age, gender mix, diversity of population, number of graduate students
- Campus life - social and cultural opportunities
- Extracurricular activities and facilities