Check Out the School and Program
- Investigate the school's reputation, reputation of the faculty, accessibility of the faculty and program accreditation. You will also want to inquire about the program requirements, time needed to complete it and the number of students who finish.
- Talk with faculty at different universities about the quality of various graduate programs. Which graduate programs have areas of specialty that match your interests? Visit the campus if possible.
- Talk with alumni from these various graduate degree programs. Where do the alumni work? Would you like those work environments? Talk with employers who hire people with the graduate degree that you're interested in obtaining.
- Talk with current graduate students in a program of interest to you. Do they like the graduate program? Why? Why not? What are their career plans after graduating from the program?
- Talk with Western faculty about various graduate programs.
- Call the Graduate Admissions Office and have them mail you an application and graduate catalog, or better yet, try accessing their catalog online (some universities charge a small fee for mailing catalogs.) Find out the size and composition of the school and information about the labs, library, facilities and support services.
- Does the specific graduate program offer both a master's degree and a Ph.D., or is the program only open to Ph.D. candidates?
- Does the specific graduate program accept students on a full-time basis only, or can a student attend part time?
- To determine which graduate program and which university you would like to apply to, read professional journals in your career field. As you read the journals, find out who is doing research in your area of interest. If possible, correspond with those individuals and visit their campus.
- If your G.P.A. is not high enough to be accepted to graduate school, see if you can attend graduate school on a part-time basis through the school's Continuing Education Department as a non-degree seeking student. Not all universities have non-degree seeking programs. Once you have taken a few courses and have maintained a high G.P.A., then you can apply for admission as a degree-seeking student.
- Determine your chances of being accepted.
- Be realistic; don't waste money on application fees.
- Call or visit the department at the university where you want to apply and talk with the departmental secretary, faculty members or chair of the graduate program.
- Inquire about:
- How many students applied to the program last year, and how many were accepted.
- What is the range of G.P.A.'s considered for acceptance into the program?
- What is the range of graduate admissions test scores considered for acceptance to the program? Do you need to take a Subject Test and not just the General GRE Exam?
- Does the school look closely at any one score? For example, what are the ranges considered for the quantitative score, analytical score and verbal score?
- Graduate assistantships, teaching assistantships and fellowships are awarded using these same criteria. Ask these same four questions about an assistantship. Ask how many assistantships were awarded in that specific graduate program last year. Find out when graduate assistants are graduating.
Additional Questions to Ask
- Do I apply to the graduate school and the individual department? Find out all the information you need to send the graduate school: application, fee, scores, transcript, recommendation letters, written essay.
- What is the application deadline?
- How do I apply for graduate assistantships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and fellowships? How many are available? What are the requirements? G.P.A.? How many hours a week would you work? How much is the stipend?
- Is work study available?
- Are loans available?
- What is the application deadline for financial aid?
- Is there a list of faculty who teach in the department? What are their areas of interest?
- What is the ratio of faculty to students?
- Are faculty involved in teaching undergraduate as well as graduate students?
- Does the individual department have a student organization?
- Would working in the field prior to entering graduate school enhance your chances of getting in? How are advisors selected and assigned to graduate students?
- Do you need to be matched with a specific professor to be accepted into the program?
- What opportunities are there for students to interact with faculty outside of the classroom?