You know the things grad schools are looking for in an ideal applicant – high undergrad grades and test scores, a cohesive, well-written, persuasive personal statement, impressive work experience, and the wherewithal to complete the program. But what are the things that YOU should consider when deciding which schools to apply to? Here are some critical things to think about as you make your selection.
- Can you picture yourself living in the area where the school is located? Do you have a support system – family or friends – in place? If you’re married, will your spouse be able to find employment in the vicinity of the school? Think about the day to day and emotional pieces of deciding on a place to live.
- Does one program have a better reputation in the industry you want to pursue? This doesn’t necessarily coincide with a school’s ranking.
- Which program has the best prospects for you relating to curriculum, types of research, etc.? Which course most closely matches your interests? Do you prefer small classrooms or large lecture halls? Independent study or group projects?
- Who will be your research supervisor? Have you met or communicated with possible supervisors of the programs, or their current students, that you’re considering? It may also be helpful to speak to your undergrad advisor. He or she can be a good resource if they know the field well. You want to try and choose a program where you will have wonderful mentoring and research supervision.
- This is more important for PhD students than master’s level students, as PhD programs are frequently fully funded. Which funding package is the most appealing? How do the packages compare in terms of fellowships vs. assistantships? How many years is the funding for, and does it include summers as well?
6. Cost of living
- This is related to both location and funding. Graduate stipends might be enough to live on in some parts of the country, while in others you may need to think about student loans or working to cover living expenses.
Take the time to consider all of these factors before sending out your applications. It will require some soul searching and research, but will be time well spent when you apply to, and are accepted by your perfect match program.
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