How to Choose a Graduate School

In this lesson, you will: 

Learn how to research graduate programs in which you are interested

Accreditation

A school that is accredited has gone through an evaluation process and has been deemed high-quality by a review board. It is important to choose a school that is accredited because they are more likely to provide: 

  • A quality education program
  • Degrees that employers and recruiters from different countries will recognize and value 
  • Greater opportunities towards intra-country moves 

Action Item: Look up your potential school here: http://www.4icu.org/ to determine if it is accredited.

Campus Life

It's important to see what the campus looks like. You need to be able to imagine yourself happily living, studying, and working on that campus for the next few years. 

Some options for seeing a campus are: taking an online tour, exploring through Google Earth, or visiting in person and walking around. 

As you explore the campus, ask yourself: 

  • Will you be comfortable in that particular school’s environment?
  • What kind of housing will be available to you?
  • Will you have easy access to public transit?

Support Services

Navigate to the website of the school in which you're interested and check either their "Student" or "Student Life" section. This is where you will be able to research student support services that will be made available to you.

Research and determine the following:

  • What kinds of advising you will receive
  • What kind of access to mentoring you will have
  • What, if any, types of professional development will be available to you

Admissions

Navigate to the "Admissions" tab on the website of the graduate school in which you are interested. Determine and understand the admissions requirements for the program that you are looking to apply to. 

  • Do you need to do anything before applying? 
  • Do you need to take any prerequisite courses required before applying?
  • Do you need to have a certain GPA for the program that you’re interested in?
  • Do you need to take an entrance exam (GRE, MCAT, LSAT) and, if so, what scores do you need to get?

Match each term with its importance

  • Accreditation
    Important because it is more likely to provide a quality education program and degrees that employers and recruiters from different countries will recognize and value
  • Campus Life
    Important because you need to be able to imagine yourself happily living, studying, and working on that campus for the next few years
  • Support Services
    Important because you need to know what kinds of mentoring, advising, and a professional development will be available to help you.
  • Admissions
    Important because you need to know the requirements for the program that you are interested in.

Understand the importance of conducting informational interviews

What is it?

What is an informational interview? 
An informational interview is when you sit down with someone and ask them about the school or program in which you are interested. It is not the same as a job interview. Your goal is not to ask for a job, but instead to take the time to learn about the degree or career you are interested in from someone who has valuable and relevant information.  

Who should you interview?
Conduct informational interviews with current graduate students, professionals, and faculty in the graduate programs you are considering.  

Why should you conduct an informational interview?
Informational interviews allow you to gain understanding about the program you are interested in and give you perspective on careers related to it that you may not have initially considered. They also allow you to obtain practical advice on what you might do next. 

Informational Interviews

Are

Are Not

  • Very brief (30 min)
  • An exploratory chat about your degree
  • A way to learn more about the program
  • Job Interviews
  • An appropriate time to ask for a job 
  • A way into a specific program 

Make sure you adequately prepare before your interview: research the person you are interviewing, be familiar with their field or profession, and come prepared with a list of questions. Here is an example list of questions to get you thinking:

Go to the following link for the full list of questions: http://www.idealist.org/info/GradEducation/Resources/Preparing/Interviews#BePrepared

Informational Interview review

Informational interviews are generally . However, they are not . Prior to an informational interview, you should . Likewise, you should come prepared .

Understand how to choose the right graduate program for you

Financial Assistance

First, determine the the total cost of the program. Remember that this includes room and board, additional fees, books and supplies. 

Then, evaluate the types of financial assistance that will be available for graduate students. You will likely find this information in one of the following tabs on the school website:

  • Admissions
  • Students
  • Student Life

If you are unable to find the information in any of those tabs, simply search "financial assistance" in the website's search feature to find it. 

Below is a table that gives you details on each of the different kinds of financial assistance that may be available to you. 

Type Explanation Must be paid back   Available for International Students
Scholarship Generally awarded for strong academics, for accomplishing something, or for fitting certain criteria. Can sometimes be need-based.  No Yes 
Loan Granted based on need. Must be repaid with interest.  Yes Varies 
Assistantship Similar to a work-study. Generally requires that you do work related to your major.  No Yes 
Fellowship Similar to a scholarship. Often available from professional organizations to do work related to your major.  No Yes 
Grant Awarded based on need.  No No 
  • See what types of scholarships, grants, fellowships, or assitantships that are available and determine the best option(s) for you. 
  • If you are required to do a practicum, will there be paid internships available?
  • Based on the work that you'll be doing, is student loan forgiveness a possibility?

Faculty

You want to attend a school that will deepen your knowledge in your intended field of study and allow you to make valuable connections within you career field. With this in mind, it's important to evaluate the reputation of the faculty and consider: 

  • What types of degrees do each faculty member have?
  • What are the research specialties of the faculty members?
  • Also, determine whether any of the faculty members may have real world experience in their area of study.

Course Offering

 

Evaluate the courses that are offered in your program.

Does the school have a low student to faculty ratio? A low ratio points to smaller classes, fewer students, and greater one-on-one attention.

Will the courses in the program deepen your knowledge and skills in your particular interest? For instance, if you are interested in medically relevant chemistry, make sure you look into schools with biochemistry courses.

 

Careers

Evaluate the employment services that are provided by the program. You will likely find this information in one of the following tabs on the school website:

  • About
  • Students
  • Student Life

If you are unable to find the information in any of those tabs, simply search "career services" in the website's search feature to find it. 

Once you have found this information, determine the following: 

  • How frequently are graduates from your program hired and what are the ranges of their starting salaries?
  • Does the program assist you in your search for employment?
  • Is there a career center specific to your field?

All these things will help you be more successful in your job search.

 

True/False Review

  • All types of financial assistance are available to international students
  • It's important to research specialties of the faculty members.
  • A low teacher to student ratio points to smaller classes, fewer students, and greater one-on-one attention
  • It's not important to evaluate the employment services that are provided by the program