If you haven’t dreamed of attending a particular grad school for your whole life, or if you haven’t aimed your studies to attend a certain grad school, then looking for a grad school can be pretty overwhelming. In this post, I’m going to give you a few tips about how to look sift through the many graduate schools out there and how to narrow your choices so that you can feel more organized and peaceful about applying for grad school.
Start your research.
The best way to get rid of that overwhelming feeling is to just get to work. You might work better by organizing yourself first and slowly beginning your research, or you might just dive into your research and worry about organizing everything later. Whatever method you like to use, you might find your best materials if you begin by using a general search engine. You could start by either searching for programs that pertain to your interests or researching different grad schools that you know are prestigious. You could also narrow your search by looking for grad schools in a particular region in which you would like to study. You could choose to study in the same area that you attended undergrad school, or you could relocate to get a change of scenery. Those decisions will be completely up to you and your preferences about where you want to earn your grad degree.
After your initial online search, you will need to get organized by making a list, filling in a spreadsheet, or creating your own way to organize your grad school results. These methods of bringing your research into one place will definitely help you in your search for the best grad school. The way that you consolidate these lists and tables will be completely up to you, but here is a list of a few things that you’ll want to rank, according to how you prioritize them:
- Prestige of Grad Program
- Prestige of Grad Professors
- Hire Rate After Graduation
- Career Center
Also, read what Dr. Don Martin had to say about researching grad schools before applying in his article, Grad School Application Checklist: 12 Months Out. He discusses the importance of starting to research grad school earlier than expected, so keep this article in mind as one of your resources to turn to if you feel overwhelmed.
Know that it’s never too early.
It’s never too early to prepare for anything in graduate school, but what I’m talking about more specifically here is that it’s never too early to look into your post-grad plans. Even before applying to grad school, it’s a good idea to think of a couple of things to do after you earn your graduate degree. For instance, would you want to continue researching or gain work experience? Would you like to start a family right away or wait until you settle into your career? You don’t necessarily have to know where you’ll earn your graduate degree before you answer these general questions.
In fact, your answers to these questions can help you find the right grad school for you. Many students only focus on the prestige of the professors and the grad programs; however, those students don’t realize the importance of researching the career centers of graduate schools. Most universities have career centers available to their students. Career centers help students look for, apply for, and interview for jobs and internships on and off campus. You should include career centers in your pro/con lists for graduate schools because schools’ career centers can help you reach your ultimate goal of becoming a researcher, business person, academic, etc. Take a look at Kerry Hannon’s article, Consider a School’s Career Services Before Applying. This article provides ways to research grad programs by helping you focus more on your post-grad plans.
If you still feel overwhelmed about researching grad schools, take a look at this timeline I found, which could help you get your foot in the door to searching and beginning your application process for grad school. Get comfortable with the timeline so you have a general idea of what you should be doing and when. Also, I took the liberty of doing the first step for you, which is just a general web search for grad schools. As a highly regarded resource for many types of research, the website for U.S. News helps you in your search for your perfect grad school.
If you have any questions about how to research grad schools and how to feel at peace rather than overwhelmed, just leave me a comment, and I’ll advise you as best I can. I hope all of these resources have helped, and good luck!