Selecting a Program

Finding the right graduate or professional program requires a great deal of research and thought. You do not want to waste time, money, and energy applying to schools that do not provide a good fit. In addition to resources in the A_LAB, you may also choose to consult the ranking tools at PhDs.org, the  U.S. News and World Report, Peterson’s Guide to Graduate Schools.

When investigating graduate and professional institutions, remember to make several contacts at each school. It is important to contact the faculty members who share your interests or who may be future advisors. Feel free to ask questions about their research, what they teach, and how their program operates. If you are unsure about how to contact faculty members, consult with your professors or refer to Don Asher’s book, Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way Into the Graduate School of Your Choice. You may also consider contacting students currently enrolled in your targeted program and ask them to share their thoughts about the institution, the professors, the quality of student life, and any other information that you would like to know.

The following is a list of considerations to keep in mind during your research:

  • What is the reputation of the program? Is it nationally recognized? Regionally? Locally?
  • What are the requirements for a master’s degree? Ph.D.?
  • How long does it typically take students to obtain their degree?
  • How flexible is the program? Full-time? Part-time?
  • What types of internship, externship, or research opportunities are available?
  • Is the academic environment highly competitive? Supportive?
  • What types of facilities are available to graduate students? How extensive is the library? How up to date is the computer or laboratory equipment?
  • What is the size of the program? Institution?
  • What is the student to faculty ratio? Do students receive personal attention?
  • What is the relative makeup of the student body? How many minority groups are represented? What is the ratio of men to women? Are there international students in the program?
  • Are there any faculty members who are recognized leaders in the field?
  • Are the faculty members widely published? Where are they published? Note: You should consider reading some of the research of professors prior to contacting them.
  • What is the quality of their research?
  • Are there faculty members who share your research interests?
  • Are the faculty members good educators?
  • How diverse is the faculty?
  • Where is the geographic location? Urban? Rural? How far away is the institution from family and other loved ones? Can you live in this type of area for the time it will take to complete your degree?
  • What types of student organizations are available? Are there opportunities for campus involvement outside the program? Clubs? Intramural sports?
  • What type of housing is available? Do you have the option of living on campus?
  • What is the community atmosphere like? Are there opportunities to socialize?
  • What is the quality of student support services? Does the institution have a good career services office? What type and how much assistance is offered to jobseekers?
  • What are the tuition costs?
  • What types of funding and support are available? Research assistantships? Teaching Assistantships? Fellowships?
  • Approximately what percent of the student body receives funding and support?