Selecting a Degree Program

Graduate and professional schools offer an opportunity for you to undertake advanced study in areas of interest and/or to accomplish a career goal.
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Selecting a Degree Program

There are generally two types of graduate school degrees awarded: masters and doctorates. Professional schools commonly award advanced degrees in law, health and the medical field. The timelines in completing degree programs vary. The degree sought, number of classes taken in a semester or quarter, required fieldwork experience, whether a comprehensive exam, thesis or dissertation is chosen, and residency requirements will all influence the length of time for completing a degree program.

Research Graduate and Professional Schools

Thoroughly researching graduate schools will significantly enhance one's ability to make a good decision, and help to prioritize which schools match an individual's educational and career goals. Make a list of criteria that are important to your decision. Although no absolute criteria are available for judging graduate or professional schools, the following may serve as a checklist of criteria to consider:

• School offers degrees in your area of interest
• Strength and reputation of the academic program
• Geographic location
• Weather
• Meets your goal
• Required entrance exams
• Demographic makeup of campus population
• Cost of tuition, books, relocation, housing
• Financial aid availability
• Application deadline
• Number of applicants vs. number accepted
• Faculty to student ratio
• Your undergraduate preparation
• Size of institution
• Accreditation of program
• School and program's overall reputation
• Campus culture
• Length of time to complete program
• Placement record of program's graduates
• Completion rate

Researching graduate schools and their program offerings is a "mouse click" away. Many schools have web sites and virtual tours that can introduce you to their school and programs. If you have some schools in mind and do not know their web site, do an internet search by going to any search engine (Yahoo, Google, etc.) and typing in the school name. This should connect you to the school's web site. Other web sites for researching graduate schools are:

Peterson's Graduate and Professional Schools - www.petersons.com
Grad Schools (portal) - www.gradschools.com
Grad Guide (portal) - www.graduateguide.com
Graduate and Professional School Profiles - www.gradprofiles.com
Council of Graduate Schools - www.cgsnet.org
Association for Support of Graduate Students - www.asgs.org
National Association of Graduate-Professional Students - www.nagps.org
U.S. News & World Report Rankings & Guides - www.usnews.com/usnews/rankguide/rghome.htm

After gathering information, it is best to narrow your selection to four or five potential schools. Your visit to the school(s) is a very important part of the process. There are often factors that you can only accurately assess by visiting each school in person. If you are unable to visit all the institutions you are considering, prioritize your top two or three and visit only those schools.
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