Finding the Right Graduate School

Which Graduate School is Right for You?

To find a graduate school that’s right for you, you should search the Internet for school rankings, ask professors and professionals in the field for recommendations, and consider your personal needs. Below are some additional factors you should assess to find a school that best suits your needs.


After you’ve determined the discipline you plan to pursue, research the schools within that field to see how they rank. In early 2012, U.S. News released its rankings for the top graduate schools of 2013. The researchers of U.S. News used statistics to measure the quality of schools’ faculty, research, and students, including information on job placement success after graduation and faculty-to-student ratio. In addition to checking current research such as that of U.S. News, you should make sure that you conduct your own to find a graduate school that offers the specific courses that you will need for your academic and career goals.


Graduate school is expensive. When you consider the cost of graduate school, you should factor in that you may have to reduce your work hours or possibly quit your job to devote the necessary time to your studies; consequently, you could be facing a substantial amount of debt once you graduate. In addition for availability of financial aid and scholarships, you should also investigate the tuition rates for your schools of choice. Graduate program funding may also be available to you depending on the budget of your school and/or institution. Remember that the best school for you is not necessarily the most expensive, so make sure that you find a graduate school that suits your personal budget.


Consider how much time you have to devote to graduate school, including how much time it will take until you can graduate and how much time you have to devote to school day to day. Some graduate schools offer flexible programs to fit your schedule. Online programs are a popular option for graduate students who have busy schedules, but some people may argue that a “traditional” program is more accepted and credible. However, many traditional universities also offer online graduate programs, quashing the credibility argument. Only you can decide what type of program best suits your personal schedule, so weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each type of program accordingly.


The geographical location of the school is another factor you should consider when trying to find a graduate school. Perhaps you have a family or a job that prevents you from relocating, which would narrow your selection to your immediate area or an online program. Even if you are not tied down to your current area, relocating can be costly, which is important when you take into account that your years in graduate school will probably not be particularly lucrative.

Conducting research about graduate schools is necessary for you to find a graduate school that’s best for you. Applying to graduate school is the next step in the process, so you want to ensure that you will spend your energy applying to the right schools for your field, budget, and lifestyle. 

Funded vs Nonfunded Graduate Programs

A major factor in selecting a potential graduate program is whether or not that program offers any graduate program funding, in other words, stipends to its students. For many students who are pursuing graduate study, selecting a graduate program based on funding seems like a no-brainer: find a graduate program that offers the most money to its students. On the surface, this seems like a sound decision, but you should consider more factors besides just graduate program funding when you are trying to choose a school.

Students sometimes mistakenly believe that graduate program funding offered to students are “free” monies, essentially paying them to go to school. Though these types of stipends do exist, they are often the exception and not the rule. Many programs that offer students stipends require students to work for the programs in some capacity. Common work that is required in return for stipends includes working in research labs, teaching, or assisting faculty members with their undergraduate courses.

When you are looking into schools, you will want to determine if graduate program funding is offered and what is required to receive funding from the programs in which you are interested. Once you know what is required to obtain graduate program funding, you can make a more informed decision about whether or not the funding will be beneficial to you. Questions to consider when making this decision include the following: Can you handle the demands of the assistantships on top of your course load? Are you planning to work outside academia while you are in school? Could you potentially earn more if you work outside academia?

You might not want to immediately dismiss a program from your list of potential schools simply because it does not offer graduate program funding. Many really good programs simply cannot offer funding to their students because of limited budgets. However, if you research the program’s institution in its entirety, you could find scholarships or assistantships available through other departments.

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