Your Specialty. It is important to decide
on your academic focus and research interests before
you begin researching schools and programs. Make
sure you look into the job market in your chosen
field to better understand how your choice of degree
and field may affect your professional
opportunities. Once you have defined your interests,
you can start researching specific programs.
Finances. Many graduate programs offer
fellowships and scholarships based on either
financial or academic qualifications. However, the
number and dollar amount of these awards are often
quite limited, and there are always a large number
of qualified students competing for the same awards.
It is important that you conduct thorough research
to determine which schools offer the best financial
incentives for your situation. You should also
create a back-up financial plan in case you do not
receive an adequate award.
Location. Keep in mind that your
commitment to a graduate program may keep you in one
place for up to 6 years, depending on the degree you
are seeking. That's why it is imperative that you
consider location as part of your school selection.
Think about what kind of environment you (and your
family, if your spouse or children will accompany
you) will be happiest in – i.e. a rural, urban, or
suburban setting. Don't forget to look beyond the
campus to the community that surrounds a school.
Prospective Faculty Advisors. Research
work is a major element of the graduate school
experience. Master's students are often required to
complete a thesis based on original research, and
most doctoral programs require a dissertation.
Having helpful faculty who will mentor you through
this process is essential. Thus, you want to
identify potential faculty advisors whose research
interests are similar to your own. To better assess
a faculty member's interests, it is helpful to read
some of their published works and to speak with them