So you are in the process of applying to graduate school, or maybe you have been accepted and are deciding on what school to attend. Many students choose a school based on name or prestige. While this is a credible consideration, it should not be a deciding factor. Graduate school marks the next step of your career and it is important to make it count. To ensure that the program you choose will help you reach your professional goals, you want to keep these things in mind.
Strong alumni network. Having the ability to learn from the experiences of people who have previously attended your institution is invaluable from both an educational and professional standpoint. Many students reach out to alumni to understand how to make the best out of their school experience and how to translate their coursework into gainful employment.
Location. Even if you don’t intend to permanently reside in the city your school is located in, you should situate yourself in an environment that provides the opportunity for you to explore your field while you are still a student.
Career services. Students turn to career services to help them prepare for interviews, search for jobs and internships, and to foster connections with alumni. Schools with the most supportive career services also tend to have the highest graduate employment rates.
Sub-concentrations. Just because a school offers the master’s degree you are interested in does not mean they specialize in it. You will want to dig deep and learn about the sub-concentrations that are offered. This will give you an idea of what you can actually expect to learn in a given program.
School culture. Some students thrive in a more competitive environment while others seek collaboration. You should speak with current students and alumni of the program to learn how students interact with one another and whether it is a good learning environment for you.
Professorial experience. The experience of your professors directly translates to the skills you learn and connections you can expect to glean. It is important to research faculty members and determine whether their experiences and interests align with yours.
Financial support. School can be costly. In addition to understanding the general financial aid package, it will be useful to know of any fellowship or work-study opportunities are offered. These are meaningful ways to support yourself while simultaneously gaining professional experience.
Retention rate. The retention rate of the program is a way to measure student satisfaction. If lots of students are transferring out of the program, this may be a sign that the school is not meeting students’ expectations.
Corporate partnerships. School-business partnerships are vital as they are a clear pathway for students to find internships and full-time jobs. You will want to understand what corporate relationships a school has and whether any of them peak your interests.
Classroom experience. Finally, you will want to understand the nature of your coursework. Is your learning primarily theoretical, or will you have the opportunity to engage in real hands-on experiences? Graduate programs with the most successful students are those that teach through experience.