Choosing the best grad school
Find the right grad school for your careerNot too long ago, you were worried about choosing the best college, Can it really be time to pick a grad school?
Choosing the best grad school isn't the same as choosing your undergraduate college. So here are some tips to help you take the next step in your academic career.
Grad school is about specializing
When you applied to college, you may have had an idea of the major you wanted to pursue. But if you're like most college students, you changed your major at least once. Switching majors typically isn't a problem as an undergrad.
But when you're talking about grad school, it's time to get serious about a specialty. Different graduate schools have different admission requirements. They may require different prerequisite classes, different tests or even different kinds of real-world experiences.
To choose the best grad school, start by making a commitment to your field of study.
Listen to the buzz
When it comes to choosing a grad school, you need to get a clear picture of each school's reputation.
Check out each school's image in the eyes of major employers in your field. Look at accreditation. Listen to the conversation online.
Get in touch with the people who have been there, done that
One of the best ways to find the right grad school is to talk to people who are working in your field. Find out about their experiences in grad school.
Ask them what they liked and did not like. Ask them what they think about other grad schools, too. You may get some surprising insights from graduates of rival schools.
See with your own two eyes
Graduate school is far too important to make decisions sight unseen. Once you've narrowed down your search to two or three schools, make a trip to each. Spend a couple of days walking around, talking to students and faculty. Sit in on classes, if possible.
And of course, get the tour. Official tours might seem corny, but they can provide a lot of information you'll never get any other way.
Make sure your choices are realistic
If the very best grad schools for your major require an undergrad GPA of 3.9, and you have a 3.4, you need to consider the likelihood that you'll make the cut.
By all means, stretch and go for the gold. But also apply to one or two schools with good programs and an admission standard closer to your actual GPA.
Follow the money
If it comes down to two schools with roughly equal credentials, consider the financial aspects. Does one offer better grants and fellowships? Is one much less for tuition?
If you can find a great grad school without going into debt with student loans, by all means make that choice.
When in doubt, ask for help
If you get stuck in the process of choosing a grad school, head for your undergraduate counselor's office. Let them know where you're having a problem. You just might find that answers are a lot simpler than you thought.