Students select graduate schools based on a number of variables with differing levels of importance to the individual. However, to acquire the answers to typical questions, key sources of information include the Career Resource Library, Faculty Advisors, published information and school visits.
Reputation: Is the program nationally recognized? Recognized on a regional or local level? For those of you who choose to look into program rankings, be advised that there is no single rating for graduate or professional schools which is universally accepted. Read several reports and ask your professors about the reputation of the schools. Rank the schools to which you want to apply (use the rating form), then consider 2-4 schools in each of three categories: a.) reach; b.) probably; and c.) safety, for a total of 6-12 target schools.
Program of Study: What emphasis does the program use? Theory? Research? Case Study? Thesis versus Non-Thesis? Look closer than the degree area and title.
Degrees Awarded: How many degrees have been awarded each year? What is the attrition rate? How long is the average time for which it takes a person to complete his/her degree?
Faculty: Have you visited campus to meet with any faculty to discuss the program? Who are the senior staff members with whom you will have contact? Do faculty emphasize teaching or research? Which do you prefer? Are the faculty conducting research in areas that are of interest to you? Are professors on the cutting edge of their field? What is the student:faculty ratio?
Finances/Costs: What is the cost of tuition, room, board, fees? How will you pay these costs? What financial aid exists? Are assistantships, fellowships, grants, and loans available? Are they available to you?
Facilities: What type of housing is available? How extensive and available are labs and facilities? How comprehensive is the library?
Geography: Is this an area where you would want to spend two or more years? Small, medium or large city? Ties you develop here could lead to jobs in the area. Are the climate, scenic beauty and recreational possibilities in line with your interests?
Campus Community: Small or large campus? Public or private? Urban or rural? Class size? Intellectual and cultural stimulation?
Admissions: Where do students come from? What are their ages and backgrounds? Do they require work experience? Are they "successful?"
Flexibility: If you change your mind about your career goal, does the program contain materials/skills which are transferable to another area of interest? Can you attend part-time or must you attend full-time? Are there assistantship requirements? What are the residency requirements? Can you transfer in graduate level courses from other institutions?
Post-Graduate Employment: Will this program contribute to the expansion of career possibilities for you? Where do graduates of the program typically find work? Does the college provide assistance with the job search process?
School Visitation: Visit the school to make a personal assessment of your fit with the institution. Will you be comfortable? Will you be challenged? Will you enjoy what you are doing and who you are doing it with?