Another application season is upon us again. Whether you are applying to graduate school or starting to look for a new job, I’m sure you’re feeling slightly stressed and anxious like I am. Starting your applications is no easy feat, so congratulations on taking the first step!
This past January I reflected on some of my tips and pointers for the overall application season. Today I wish to share with you all five pointers when conducting your graduate school search. Hopefully this advice helps all of you applying for a Master’s, Certificate, or Doctorate.
- What’s Important to You:
Talk about it with friends, start a bulleted list on a Word document. Start identifying some of the things you want in your graduate school program. When I was applying to Master’s programs I started looking for schools near a good hospital and an international airport. I know my friends were more focused on the region in which the school was located, the point is to be aware of what factors are important to you.
- Narrowing Your Search:
What do you want in a program? Are you looking for a program that will support you with research, internship experience, or look in a job immediately after graduation? Do you want a cohort-model or non-cohort model program? Do they have Graduate Assistantships that will support you financially? Ask questions and be sure you are going to get what you want out of this graduate program. Remember that the degree and the experience are part one of your search. Part two is finding a program that will challenge and support you (personally and financially) in your endeavors.
- Identify Your Research Interests:
Are you interested in a certain topic? International, religious affiliation, residential life, Greek Life, community college/2-year, student development theory, counseling, etc. Identify some areas you would like to explore further. Some programs have emphasis areas that can help you explore more of your interests, perhaps connecting you with the chance to present at local conferences.
- Identify Professors and Departments:
Look to see the faculty in each program. What are their research interests and current projects? Before I applied to Master’s of Higher Education programs, I knew I wanted to work with professors with similar interests in multicultural, international, residential life, and community colleges. Looking at professor's’ publications gave me a great insight to the value of research within the program. I also knew that I wanted to get more involved with ASHE (the Association for Study of Higher Education), which is currently housed at UNLV. When it came down to making my final decision, having the opportunity to work the professors and departments I identified in my search made a difference. I knew my academic, work, and research pursuits would be supported here.
- Finding the “Right Fit” and the “Right Price”:
Trust yourself. If the school and program feel “right” for you, go for it. Finances are always a be part of this “fit” and I encourage you to continue asking about funding--scholarships, Graduate Assistantships, university positions--that will help you achieve your goal. A website can only say so much about a school and about the financial aid and support available, so before you say no to a school based on price alone, email someone. Talk to financial aid and scholarships, talk to the department, and admissions. Know that with time, effort, and grit you can make graduate school an achievable goal.
Best of luck in your search!