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Considering Graduate or Professional School

Making the decision to attend graduate school is a big one that takes time and careful planning.

Researching Programs

Application procedures and deadlines can vary by institution. Generally, you will start the entire process one and a half years before you wish to enroll.

Once you have identified an area of study, create a list of schools.

Here are a few items to consider when researching a program:

There are many sites on the Internet to get you started:

    Get the scoop on graduate departments and programs that are on your list.
    Every detail about grad schools, financial aid, and loans.
    Why are you going to grad school? How do I get in? Where can I find financial support? Find all of these answers and more!
    Overview of financial aid information, scholarships, test preparation, careers, and graduate programs.
    Gain insight into everything about grad school.
    Take a comprehensive look at specific programs, rankings, test preparation and graduate school expectations.

  • Ask for the graduate catalog, specific information on your department (curriculum, faculty profiles and research interests), application forms for admission, financial aid, housing and information about scholarships, loans, fellowships and assistantships.

Selecting a School

Not all schools will offer programs in the discipline in your area of interest. It sounds obvious, but figuring this out will automatically shorten your list of possible schools.

Aside from the obvious, here are a few additional considerations:
Take stock of "you"

Consider where you would you be comfortable living. Consider climate, city services, area entertainment and your partner's career goals/employment. Take stock of your research interests. Be sure to consider your overall career goals.

Satisfaction of current students

Get the perspective of current students in your program. Find out about faculty and assistantships/financial assistance. Some Internet research will help turn up information on program satisfaction for previous and current students.

Location & size

Consider how far you would be from friends and family. Consider the size of the department. Think about if you would rather have a large or small cohort group. Don't forget about the faculty-to-student ratio and overall class sizes, as these can play a big role in getting a quality experience.

Type of program

Expectations will vary significantly at each institution. Consider the work expected of you in each program. Find out if the program is focused on research or industry.


Find out how long each degree program will take to complete. Discover any prerequisite courses required to enter the program. Inquire about internship or thesis requirements. Learn about the faculty research interests to be sure they share some of yours.

Quality of program

To determine quality, consider the programs:

  • commitment to research & scholarship
  • reputation of the school, faculty & alumni/ae
  • admissions standards & care taken in selection of graduate students
  • program's and source of accrediation (by whom is the program accredited)

Base your decision on what the program has to offer YOU. The top graduates of "second tier" schools may find better employment opportunities than "average" graduates of the most selective programs.

Paying for Graduate School

Tuition is just one of the many costs associated with graduate school. Consider the cost of living, fees and financial aid opportunities. Financial support is available for graduate studies. Finding these funds requires persistent research.

Here are a few points to consider:

Start by consulting the universities to which you are applying. Write to your prospective departments and financial aid offices about assistantships, fellowships, scholarships, work-study, student loans and other assistance options. This information is not always available via their website.

Guides are available on the Internet and in the CRC Library that will identify strategies and sources for financing your education.

Other sources for financial aid include national, state or local chapters of professional associations, unions, corporations or banks. Many of these organizations offer financial assistance to students.

Here are a few financial aid resources:

  • CollegeNET - College Tips & Scholarships
  • Fastweb - Financial Aid Search Through the Web
  • FinAid - The Financial Aid Information Page
  • YAHOO! - Education: Financial Aid

  • Don't forget to calculate cost of living. Your program or university website often provides this information, but the Internet can help there, too.


Our Graduate & Professional Schools Information Day is a great way to explore gradaute and professional schools from around the nation. This is a BIG opportunity to get lots of information in one location.

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