So you Think You Want To Go To Graduate School? That's outstanding. As an aspiring professional degree collector, I think that everybody should have at least one. :-) For many, graduate school has become a necessary step in fully realizing one’s professional potential. I’m often asked about the factors that should be considered when researching/selecting graduate programs. As the summer begins, now is a great time to start the process of identifying the right graduate program for you. Hopefully the information provided in this series will be useful for those of you that are consideringmasters and/or doctoral study. The first four tips are provided below. Don't miss the bus children.
- Consider Your Ultimate Goals- Your first order of business is to make sure that you are relatively clear about what you want to do. This does not mean that at this point you must have the next 5-7 years of your life meticulously mapped out. But rather that you have a general idea, inclination, intuition, research interest, question, profession, etc. in mind that will guide and substantiate your reasons for considering graduate school. I know this seems like common sense but you’d be surprised. Entering a graduate program haphazardly or with no concept of your ultimate academic and professional goals can lead to all types of frustration, wasted time, and more importantly wasted money.
- Get it Straight From the Horse’s Mouth- Find someone that has the professional job, skills, interests, experiences that you are chasing and pick their brain. In this day in age your network will take you farther than your library ever could. Speaking to people can help you focus and filter the information that you encounter when doing your own personal research. Find someone who’s successfully navigated the road you wish to travel and use them as a resource. Ask them about their graduate program or of programs that they would suggest you look into. Ask them what you should be looking for in a program. If you don't have connections, establishing a relationship may position you to use their connections. You never know who they know. The world is that small. This is a great place to start in finding the program that’s right for you. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to strangers. If there’s a book/journal author or editor, professor, program director, and/or professional that you come across. Send an email, tweet them. The internet has made just about everyone accessible. Take full advantage.
- Make a Wish List- Make a list of your ideal graduate school experience. What would your “perfect program” look like? Where would it be? How long would it be? What region of the country/world would it be in? etc. Once you have your list of ideal program charachteristics rank them in order of importance. You can then use this as a checklist when researching graduate programs.
- Your Search Should Start Broad and Then Narrow - Armed with the advice of your mentor and your checklist I suggest you consult a database such as www.gradschools.com. You can use your checklist to filter through thousands of the domestic and international graduate programs. Doing so should yield you an exhaustive list of options which you can research further and dwindle down to the short list of programs that you’re seriously considering.
This is a good start. Check back toward the end of the week for the next steps.