There are many factors that you should consider when you are deciding which graduate school to apply to as well as the application process itself:
Who Is Interviewing Whom?
It is easy to lose sight of your needs when you are applying to graduate school, but it is important to remember that although the faculty members are interviewing you, you are also interviewing the faculty members. Do their research interests fit with yours? Interpersonally, do the faculty members seem like they would be easy to work with? What will your life as a graduate student be like there? Be mindful that just as you will be on your best “interview behavior,” so too will the faculty members. It may seem at times like you are fighting to be accepted, which is partially true, but you should remember that you also have skills that the faculty and program need, so they may have a few sales tricks up their sleeves.
If at all possible, speak with graduate students currently in the program, and see if they can give you any scoop on the faculty, program, and life as a graduate student there. Speak with as many students as you can to get different people’s experiences and points of view on their life as a graduate student at that University. In every program, you will find students who see no flaws whatsoever, but you will also find students who are resentful toward the program. You might find the truth about the program somewhere in between these two perspectives.
Stipends or No Stipends
Stipends are usually offered to graduate student assistants, teaching assistants, teaching fellows, or graduate student researchers. Because stipends include other benefits, such as instruction, housing, food, or accreditation, the dollar amount is typically lower than what you would expect if you received a salary for performing comparable work. Consider if a stipend would be beneficial to you and how having one or not would impact your life as a graduate student.
Accredited or Unaccredited
Because accreditation is a voluntary process, programs have the option to choose whether to apply for initial accreditation. Some employers will not hire a candidate if the candidate graduated from an unaccredited learning institution because unaccredited schools usually don’t have the same educational standards and policies that accredited schools do. You should research potential graduate schools and your desired field to determine how important accreditation will be.
Private or Public
Private schools are often more expensive than are public schools, although some may have a better reputation academically. If you choose a pricey private school for its other benefits, you could be financially strapped after you’ve earned your degree, which could potentially limit your freedom of job choice later and your life as a graduate student as well. Weigh the pros and cons of each school to see which would suit you best.