Ask These 5 Questions to Determine What Grad School You Should Go To
So, you’ve weighed the pros and cons of going to grad school and decided that it’s the right move for you. Maybe you’re ready to apply but unsure where to send your applications. Or perhaps you’ve been accepted to several programs—congratulations! —and need help narrowing down your options.
Choosing a program seems complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Whatever your situation, asking these five questions will help you determine what grad school is right for you.
1. Is the school in a location where you can see yourself living for 2+ years?
Location, location, location. It’s an important consideration when choosing a grad school. After all, wherever you land will be your home for two years or longer.
Do you prefer city life or small-town living? Can you handle the weather where the school is located? Does proximity to nature matter to you, and does this location offer it? Will you feel at home there?
You may also want to think about career opportunities in the area. It’s a good idea to choose a location where quality internships and networking opportunities in your field are plentiful.
Keep in mind that many internships translate to job offers. Is the school in a location where you’d be happy to settle down for the long run? If so, it can make launching your career after graduation a faster and easier process.
2. How much will it cost to attend this school? Will you receive any scholarship money or financial aid? Does the school/program provide other ways to offset costs?
There are many ways to pay for graduate school. Still, some programs will be cheaper than others or will offer more assistance. You can take out loans to pay for grad school, but attending a more affordable school means owing less money (and paying off debt faster).
Compare tuition costs at the schools you’re considering. If you’ve already received financial aid packages, compare those as well. Research options like work study, fellowships, and assistantships.
This doesn’t mean you should always pick the most affordable school. However, you should do a cost-benefit analysis. Is the more expensive school worth the extra money? Is the difference in price equal to the difference in quality?
3. How well will this school prepare you for your future career? Does it specialize in your area of interest?
Of course, you want to choose a program that prepares you to excel in your field. Does the program have a good reputation? Is it ranked? Is it known for producing highly qualified graduates who land competitive jobs and go on to successful careers?
Talk to a few program graduates if possible. Ask how well the program prepared them for their jobs. Were they able to hit the ground running after graduation?
If you have a specialized area of interest in your field, see if the program offers courses or even a concentration in that area. Are there professors conducting research in your area of interest? It’s important to choose a program that aligns with your interests and goals.
A strong graduate program should blend course material and real-world learning.
In addition, aim for a program that’s well-regarded by employers. You’ll be prepared for your future career and have an easier time getting in the door.
4. Is the curriculum a good fit for you? Will you benefit from hands-on learning and other unique experiences?
Explore each school’s curriculum and the unique opportunities they offer. A strong graduate program should blend course material and real-world learning. Will you participate in practicum/internship experiences? Will you get a chance to conduct research and other independent projects?
Some schools may even have laboratories and other facilities geared toward your program. They may offer specialized organizations, events, and activities related to your field. Do your research on the opportunities available at each program you’re interested in.
Which of these opportunities will enhance your preparation? Which get you excited about attending the school? Choose a program with an enriching curriculum that fits your learning style.
5. Do you enjoy the school’s culture and people? Have you visited it? Is there anything that “feels” right or special about this school?
Finally, the best way to choose a school is to see it for yourself. Sometimes, a school that looks right on paper doesn’t quite “feel” right in person.
Once you’ve narrowed your list down to a reasonable number, make some campus visits. Often, you’ll find that you “click” with one school, that it feels like the right place to pursue your education. If you’re not into making big decisions based on gut feelings, a campus visit still provides you with extremely valuable information.
Take a tour, talk to students, visit the classrooms and common areas, and walk around. Imagine yourself living and learning on that campus for several years. Would you be comfortable and happy there? Is it a place where you would flourish? Make a list of what stands out at each school and your likes/dislikes.
When considered alongside your answers to the previous four questions, a campus visit should make your choice clear.
Final Thoughts: Ask These 5 Questions to Determine What Grad School You Should Go To
Choosing where to go to graduate school is a big decision. Luckily, it’s much easier when you know which factors to consider.
Do your research on:
- Career Preparation
- School Reputation
Narrow your list down as much as possible, then pay your top choices a visit. Make a pro/con list, jot down your most important observations, and weigh your options. At this point, you should have a clear winner.
Making a big investment like grad school can be scary. But ask these five questions, and you’ll invest in a grad school program that pays off in the long run.
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