How to Choose the Best Graduate Program

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  How to Choose the Best Graduate Program How to Choose the Best Graduate Program

Things to consider about graduate programs and how to decide which program to attend.


All graduate programs are not created equal. Some programs are more rigorous, competitive, or research-centered than others. Choosing between programs can be a difficult decision, but it the most important choice you will have to make in your graduate school career.

Most likely you will start your research on the grad school's website. Once you start your search, you might notice that there are common terms used at all graduate schools. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, it is important that you take the time to learn them as it will help you understand exactly what the program is offering.

You must put good deal of thought into where you apply to graduate school, even your safety school. Where you choose to attend graduate school will be a mark on your resume for the rest of your career, so pay close attention all factors that make the perfect masters degree or PhD program for you. When searching graduate programs to pursue your masters degree or PhD, there are many things to consider, and several avenues to take to find this information.

Take the time to study the graduate program’s website and read about faculty, admissions requirements, facilities, and location. For obvious reasons, it is most important to find out what types of graduate studies are available at each school. If the website is lacking the information you’re looking for, take the initiative and call or Email the school directly to have your questions answered. If you are still in undergraduate college or have recently graduated, talk to your professors about what schools they recommend for your particular field. Additionally, compare graduate schools by taking a look at rankings in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet.

Picking a Graduate School

When choosing a graduate school, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to attend an online school or traditional school? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but with today’s technology, you can find a school that fits your needs both online and on-campus.
  • What is the emphasis of the program? Some masters degree programs focus on research, while others specialize in preparing students for teaching or industry positions.
  • Which are the strongest areas of discipline? Graduate schools may offer programs in multiple fields of interest, but may specialize in one. For example, even though Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers several masters degree, they specialize in masters degrees in engineering.
  • What is the attrition rate? Finding out how many students graduate from their designated programs is an easy way to measure the program’s value.
  • What types of financial assistance are provided? If paying for graduate school is an issue, then finding enough financial assistance should be a top priority when applying to schools. In addition to forming a traditional financial aid package, graduate students may also be accepted for fellowships or assistantships, which sometimes waive total tuition.
  • How long will it take to complete the degree? Most masters degree programs last 2 years or less, however it is important to determine the length of your program to see if it fits in with your career goals.
  • What have alumni achieved? Having accomplished alumni says something not only about the person’s ambition, but the rigor of the school’s graduate program.
  • What reputation does the graduate school have? This may or may not be important to you, depending on what direction your career is headed. However, if you are planning on working for a large corporation or the government, you may want to pursue a prestigious graduate school with a strong reputation.
  • Do you have a chance at being admitted? You probably shouldn’t be applying to a masters degree program at Harvard, if you graduated with a “C” average at your undergrad. Be honest with yourself about your educational history. It will save you precious time filling out applications that could be spent on school’s more within your reach.

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