Whether you’ve just finished your degree and are ready to take the next steps or have decided to go back to school, deciding where to complete your graduate degree can be a stressful decision. However, having a graduate degree can really help boost your career and your salary. When deciding where to attend, we’ve compiled 10 aspects we believe are important to consider before making a decision.
While location isn’t everything, it can certainly help. When researching what schools you may be interested in, also take notice of what is around those schools and the type of environment you will be in. Consider how the area will affect your quality of living while also considering how it can help you progress in your field of study.
For instance, if you’re not a city person, it may be best to consider schools in more rural areas where you may be able to focus on your studies better. Or, if you thrive in an area with a lot of activity, consider schools that have plenty to do in the surrounding area that you’d be interested in. If you aren’t happy in your environment, you may not do as well in your academics.
If you’re looking into graduate school, research the programs they have to offer. Is that school best known for its business programs? Or maybe if you’re looking to go into higher education, what courses does this school offer? These are important questions to ask yourself as you begin your research.
Additionally, look at how the programs stack up against other competing schools. If you receive your degree from one of the top ranked schools in the nation in your industry, employers will take notice of that.
3. Network of Alumni
Alumni networks are a great way to connect with those in your industry to begin or to progress your career. It can be helpful to look into any notable alumni of schools you’re looking into or even reaching out to the alumni to ask them about their experience at that school.
When looking for alum, LinkedIn can be a great place to start. Connect, reach out, and learn what you can from those who have already been there. You never know what you could learn if you don’t ask. When reaching out to alum, here are some questions you could ask to get you started:
- What is special about your program that other school choices didn’t offer?
- What are the class atmosphere’s like and how helpful are the professors?
- What did you wish you knew before beginning your graduate program at this school?
For more tips on connecting with alumni and others through LinkedIn, check out this article.
4. Requirements for application
Different schools and programs have different requirements for the application process. For example, Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, typically does not require GRE scores for applicants, which is part of why many of its graduate students chose to attend that school. When looking into where you would like to apply, first look at what the school requires and how reachable those requirements are for you.
Once you’ve looked through the requirements, compile your list of your reach schools, your choice schools, and even some safety schools. It does not hurt to apply to schools even if you think they may be out of your reach. After all, the worst that can ever happen is that you don’t receive an acceptance letter from your reach schools.
It’s not only important to look at what these schools have to offer for you as a student, but you should also be considering how these programs align with your values and your career goals. For instance, if you’re interested in working in the mental health field with a focus on helping children, you’ll want to look for schools that specialize in this more niche field. If your values align with the school, definitely be sure to include that information in your personal statement when applying.
Having a good professor can have a big impact on what you take out of the class and your education. If you know what program you’d like to be involved in at that school, look at the professors who are in charge of it and their credentials. Have they won any awards in their field or worked for some of the largest companies? Professors are a helpful and easy way to network and to progress in your field. Know what they have to offer and take advantage of that.
If you thought undergrad was expensive, I have some bad news for you. Graduate school is just as bad, if not worse, and schools are typically a bit less generous with scholarships. It is important to look at what you can afford and how you’re going to afford it before making any big decisions. If the reward is not greater than the risk, you’ll have to really consider that.
Graduate school is a big time commitment. Your assignments are going to be more difficult and you won’t be able to procrastinate and finish any projects the night before. Because let’s be honest, even the best of us have been there. Rather than taking five classes each semester, you’ll probably be taking closer to three as the workload is significantly greater.
Additionally, many people do choose to obtain their graduate degree while working full-time. It’s important to be honest with yourself on what you can handle and how quickly you can handle it. It’s also important to remind yourself that receiving a graduate degree is not a race. Take things at whatever pace you need to and be proud of yourself for even taking this step in the first place.
Professors aren’t the only ones who can have an impact on your success in graduate school. It’s important to research what resources that school has to offer. For instance, if you’re looking to earn a master’s in business, some programs may have more resources available including newer technology. Does this school offer the latest and greatest in your field or is it a little behind?
Also consider what resources the school offers when it comes to financial aid or career placement and look at the efficiency of those resources.
Deciding where to obtain your next degree is a big decision. Almost bigger than where you completed your undergraduate degree. Research as much as you can so when the time comes, you know you’ve made the right choice.