Graduate school is a big investment, but the process of narrowing down your options doesn’t have to be as painful as it may initially seem. The key is developing an understanding of what you value so that you have an idea of what qualities are necessary in your program.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a graduate school, some of which you will have to weigh more heavily than others, depending on your needs. You shouldn’t make your decision based on just one issue.
Here are a few factors to take into consideration if you are trying to find a graduate school:
Location. Is the program located in an area where you would like to live? Is the cost of living affordable? Do you need to be close to a support system, such as friends and family? Are recreation opportunities available? Geography can be extremely important when looking at schools since you could be living in this area for several years.
Cost. When determining the cost of a graduate degree, consider the possibility of teaching or research assistantships, grants, and stipends. Also think about whether the school is public or private and the possibility of receiving reduced tuition. Graduate programs can be extremely costly; it will be worth your time to evaluate expenses before committing to a school.
Specialization. You probably had time to dabble in a number of study areas when you began your first degree, but grad school is different; it’s time to focus on one specific area and make the most of your education in it. Research which fields are expected to grow in the future. Looking at the job market can help you determine if your field is likely to be booming when you graduate. Once you have a clear idea of which area you want to specialize in, find a graduate school that excels in it.
Resources and Facilities. If you want to pursue a Master’s or Ph.D. in a science field, maybe modern laboratories and equipment are important. If you plan to pursue a graduate degree in liberal arts, maybe a university with a top-notch library would be suitable. Discover what is available to you as a student before you commit.
Outcomes. The ultimate goal is to advance your skills and prepare for working or teaching in your field. Have previous graduates been successful? It can be to your advantage to learn about schools’ employment and retention statistics.
Reputation. The reputation and ranking of a graduate program or school are normally indicators of the quality of education they provide, as well as the level of resources that could be available to you.