Evaluating Grad Schools

There are a number of factors that will help you in narrowing down your search for graduate schools to apply to. While evaluating each school, consider the following:

Admission Requirements:

  • How competitive is admission? What are admission requirements (GPA, work experience, classes, test scores etc.) and do you have the requirements needed. You may want to apply to one or two "safety" schools and one or two more competitive schools.
  • Does the program favor applicants with work experience or those who are recent graduates?

Curriculum:

  • Look at the courses of the program. Does it meet your needs and does it suit your educational and professional goals? Is a thesis or a final exam required? Is there some sort of practical experience or internship included?
  • How long is the program and how many credits are required? The same program can vary in credit hours from one school to another.

Reputation/Quality of Program:

  • What is the reputation of the school in general and what is the reputation of the program within the field?
  • Is the program accredited and if so, by whom?

Additional resource: US News & World Report Grad School Rankings

Placement:

  • How many students in the program complete it?
  • How many of the graduates find employment in their field and does the department assist students in this process? What kinds of employment do students find?
  • Where do most students find jobs and live after graduation?

Faculty:

  • What is the faculty/student ratio and are the faculty accessible to the students? Are the faculty committed to teaching, research or both?
  • What is the philosophy of the department and do most professors share this view?
  • Are the faculty well known and what have they published recently? If you are attending graduate school for research in a specific discipline, it is important to identify a faculty member, who has research interests similar to yours, to have as a mentor.

Location/Size:

  • Do you want to attend a large or small school? Do you prefer a large or small program?
  • In what geographic area would you like to attend school? Do you need to be close to family and/or friends? Would you like the school to be located in an urban or rural setting?
  • What activities does the community offer? Is there graduate housing available and how difficult is it to find off-campus housing. What public transportation is available?

Cost/Financial Aid:

  • What is the cost of the program? What are the hidden costs? Is the cost expected to increase in the future?
  • How much financial assistance is available in the form of assistantships, loans and fellowships?