You've sent in your applications and been accepted into your top-choice schools. But now, how do you choose which institution to attend?
The decision may weigh heavy on your mind - the school you select will impact your quality of life, academic opportunities and possibly career path. But that doesn't mean that choosing a program has to be an overwhelmingly intimidating, stressful experience. By weighing each school against a set of criteria, you can make the best decision for your needs while minimizing anxiety over making the wrong choice.
Here are five points to consider when selecting a graduate school program:
1. Financial costs Depending on your financial situation, the financial aid and tuition options the program is offering you may have a significant impact on your ultimate decision. If the school will cover the entirety of your tuition, that's a major benefit that shouldn't be taken lightly. However, there are other ways a program can be made financially viable, such as through fellowships, scholarships and assistantships, UC Berkley's Career Center noted. Take these offerings into account to make the most informed decision that can help you set yourself up for the most stable financial future.
2. Faculty It's a good idea to aim to focus your research and studies while in graduate school and really delve into your niche areas of interest as they align with your career goals. The faculty at a school can be a significant resource in this regard - you may gain more enjoyment and benefits from a program taught by faculty who are experts in your area of research, who have published in journals you'd like to be published in and who are active in their fields, attending conferences and other events. A supportive faculty with specialization in your specific area of interest can also help you expand your networking opportunities.
3. Location While the academic substance of the graduate programs you are considering is important, you'll also want to think about the location of the school, as you'll be spending at least a year living there. U.S. News & World Report recommends asking yourself if you'll feel at home in the city or town of the school, and if you'll be comfortable with its "physical and cultural environments." If you loathe your surroundings or find little of interest to do around town, you may not actually enjoy your program.
On the other hand, many schools now offer remote and online graduate program opportunities, which can provide some flexibility in this area.
"Carefully consider the content of the coursework you'll be undertaking."
4. Courses This may seem like a given, but it's important to carefully consider the content of the coursework you'll be undertaking before you enroll in a graduate program. Sometimes, on the surface, a program may seem perfectly aligned with your interests and goals, but the reality of the situation may be different. Take time researching what current and past students think of the programs, reading course catalogs and speaking with faculty and enrollment counselors to learn more about the exact classes you'll be taking in the program and how closely they match your professional and academic areas of interest.
5. Substance - beyond reputation As Northeastern University's Career Development blog notes, it's easy to focus too much on the reputation of a school when making a decision about which program to enroll in. Just because a school has prestige or is a household name doesn't mean that it will be the perfect choice for you - it may not have the courses or faculty you want, fail to align with your desires for the type of environment you want to live in or not have the academic or social culture you want. Evaluate schools for the substance of their programs and how they fit with your needs and goals, not for their reputation.
Choosing a graduate school is a big decision, but an exciting one! Use the five qualities above to guide your selection process and make the right choice for you.
GraduateGuide.com - helping you find colleges and universities that offer the accredited graduate programs that most interest you.