Perhaps you are in undergrad and already know you have the drive to continue in academia to get a master’s degree. Or maybe you’ve been out of college a few years and are looking to switch up your day-to-day routine. For instance, your current work life, or even, build a new work-life completely. In all these situations, you will have to assess how best to choose the graduate school you desire.
Not every graduate program is built the same. To identify the differences that will appeal to you has everything to do with what your unique needs may be. That said, there are several aspects of grad school that you can assess more generally to identify your preferred graduate program.
What to look for when choosing your perfect grad program
Within the program
See how long most current students have been out of school: This demographic is a good indication of if a program is good for you right now. If you are applying to a business program where most of the students have been working professionally for five or six years, it is likely you will want to be at a similar stage in your career. Keep this in mind when you apply.
Look for networks: Very possibly the most important part of graduate level programs is the network of peers to which they provide access. Those that you attend graduate school with will become your business partners, champions, and friends. Identify alumni networks and investigate those that have been successful. If they are doing the kind of work you are passionate about as well. Then seek out graduates to talk with if you can.
Prizing diversity: If your undergraduate experience was rather homogeneous, it is important to look for programs that prize diversity. Gaining a greater perspective by working with people from all walks of life would benefit you professionally. For example, people who have different ideas, backgrounds, and cultural ideals will give you a more well-rounded education. In turn, improve how you face your career post-graduation.
Look for practical hands-on training: Another enormously important aspect of graduate school is access to professional-level opportunities. Most grad programs offer practical training in the professional world. This includes shadowing, interning, or participating in low-level field placements. In return for the education that can only come experience. Look into the relationships that particular schools have with companies or organizations that you would like to work with. Try to exploit those partnerships toward leveraging a career after graduation.
Identify faculty mentors: Before you apply to a graduate program, research the faculty to make sure there are people there that you are excited to learn from. Try to find those in your chosen field that have experience in specific concepts that particularly appeal to you. This can become part of your graduate work to establish that person as your mentor. Are there professors working on experiments you admire or are with publications that are meaningful to you? The faculty in graduate school is there to serve your needs; find out who you feel would be your best advocate.
Visit the campus: As with any application, visiting the campus is very beneficial. As a grad applicant, you particularly want to know the overall environment that graduate students inhabit. The lives of grads compared to undergrads can be quite different on campus. Speak with grad peers where you can get a good idea of how grads are treated by faculty. This includes, what is expected of them, and where they generally have advantages over the undergraduate population.
Important Factors to Remember
Whether you are going to school to get your master of science in nursing or going back to school to further your education in business, the way to pick the best graduate school boils down to research. Find the one that fits most specifically with your needs and not necessarily the one that everyone knows about.
Pairing up with the ideal program is more important than picking one that is particularly prestigious or competitive. The best graduate school will be the one that suits the profession that you intend to go into upon graduation. Where you can engage faculty and peers that will follow your passion projects will help you get further in your career.
By: Sierra Skelly