While graduate schools can sometimes be a departure from past academic experience, there is typically a connection between undergraduate work and the professional and personal goals that the student wants to achieve. Graduate degree programs can be of varying duration, and may extend from one to three years. A master’s thesis is required in many cases, as well. Doctoral programs can be longer, and require a doctoral thesis. Some programs require unpaid internships, while others offer stipends and teaching assistantships. When researching a graduate school program, you should find out exactly what you must do to achieve your goal. At the basic level, that means jotting down the number of credits and the types of courses you are required to take.
A chief concern is the reputation of the institution, and that generally means the quality of the graduate school faculty. Some institutions have excellent undergraduate programs but are mediocre in the area of advanced degrees. The internet is a great resource as you investigate schools, which list their faculty bios online as well as in paper publications. Have the professors invented anything, broken new ground, or provided new insights into established research? How does the school rank in the conventional guidebooks? Some of the popular institutional guidebooks can provide you with an academic profile of students who went before you. Most of the popular academic program guides will indicate how the advanced degree program ranks in comparison with other programs within the same field.
It is also possible to network with currently-enrolled students to get a feel for things. Plan a visit so that you can speak with several grad school students. Ask them whether they feel the school was worth the money invested.
What a professor has written can also provide some insight into personality and levels of expertise. You can check out publications or other outside activities to determine how much impact a professor is likely to have on your education. Educational institutions strive to put their best foot forward in the selection of graduate school faculty. Another thing to keep in mind is that test scores are only part of your application to a grad school. Acceptance hurdles for admission to grad schools are typically set by the grad school faculty.
Of the many things to consider when choosing a graduate program, financing can be a big factor. With regard to financial arrangements, the school’s online catalogue will provide information regarding the percentage of students who receive financial aid. Certainly, a significant number of graduate school candidates will seek out the availability of graduate jobs, such as teaching assistantships or research assistant positions. As a backstop to your financial aid plan, there is always the possibility of student loans and outside jobs. Bear in mind that paying your way through a difficult advanced degree program by outside employment does not allow for a great deal of leisure time. That element must be factored into your plans for the length of time you expect to take to get your advanced degree.