You’ve decided to apply to grad school—congratulations! Now that you’ve decided to apply, and know what kind of program you want, it’s time to consider where you want to apply, and which particular school would be the best fit for you. There are a lot of factors that make up which grad program is right for you, and it’s important to weigh them all. Here are five things to consider when doing your research on different grad programs:
1. Institutional and Program Reputation
When deciding which grad program to apply to, the reputation of the school and your program of choice will likely be at the forefront of your mind. Companies like QS and US News and World Report publish detailed, numerical rankings of American and global educational institutions every year, but the “raw number” of your school of choice may not tell the whole story. Also relevant is where your program of choice ranks among others—for instance, the top law schools in America may not strictly correspond with how the universities rank more broadly.
2. Location, Location, Location
Ranking isn’t everything when it comes to program choice, however. Location is an important factor to consider when you’re picking a place where you’ll not only be studying, but living for the next few years. Being near friends and family, or moving to the part of the country where you hope to get a job after graduation, are important factors for consideration.
3. Cost and Scholarships
Grad school can be very expensive—even with scholarships, the cost is often tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, it’s important to consider cost when looking at grad programs. This can mean exploring options for schools where you’re eligible for in-state tuition, or which have robust scholarship programs. It’s also important to check your eligibility for grad school scholarships outside your desired institutions, such as those sponsored by private foundations. If you’re looking at a PhD, it can also mean prioritizing schools that guarantee funding for the duration of your program. Whatever shape your financial considerations take, it’s important to account for them in your grad school plans.
4. Networking and Career Opportunities
Contradictory as it sounds, for many students, grad school isn’t just about studying. Grad school is also an important place to build your professional network, and that’s something to consider when researching grad programs. Many different factors impact a school’s networking potential, such as whether they have specific networking programs in place for students, their professional services program and relationships with relevant companies, and even their physical proximity to businesses and other universities. If you’re looking to develop your professional network in grad school, all of these factors are worth investigating.
5. Social Life and General “Fit”
Finally, choosing a grad program is a very personal matter, and some factors can only be quantified by an individual applicant. Do you want a collaborative work environment, or are you more of a solo artist? Do you thrive on the personal attention of a small program, or the hustle and bustle of a large cohort? Are you hoping to be integrated into student life on campus, or looking for a more professional experience? All of these are personal questions, and there’s no “right” answer, except what’s right for you. This is where individual research, and reaching out to people at your prospective schools, becomes important. With the right research, you can find the grad program that’s the right fit for you.