3 tips to finding right graduate program

Graduate school allows college graduates the chance to intensify their studies as they pursue advanced degrees. Many professions require advanced degrees, but students may enroll in graduate school for various reasons, including their own intellectual curiosity and the chance to improve their earning potential.

Choosing a graduate program is an important decision that can impact students’ career prospects and financial futures.

According to Peterson’s Real Guide to Colleges and Universities, the average annual tuition for a graduate program at a public university is $30,000, while graduate students at private universities can expect to pay nearly $40,000 each year. Such figures illustrate just how important it is for prospective graduate students to find the right schools for them.

1. Conduct exhaustive research. Because the cost of graduate school is so substantial, students should be extra diligent when researching potential grad schools. Gather as much information about each school as possible, even contacting department heads and/or professors to learn if a given program is best for you. Graduate programs tend to be specialized, so make sure each school you’re considering offers exactly what you’re seeking. For example, graduate programs in history may specialize in a particular period of history. As a result, students who want to pursue graduate degrees in history must find the program that allows them to study the period that most interests them. Finding such programs requires extensive research, so students must afford themselves ample time.

2. Speak to current students and recent graduates. Current students and recent graduates can provide a unique perspective that prospective grad students won’t get from brochures or online research, no matter how exhaustive that research might be. Encourage students and recent grads to be candid, asking them about their experiences as grad students and, for recent grads, how they fared in the job market after earning their degrees. Don’t discount the latter, as grad school is an investment of time, energy and money, and that should lead to professional fulfillment upon graduating.

3. Be realistic about your finances. While many people enroll in graduate programs to improve their earning potential, some students may not enjoy that benefit. The cost of grad school varies depending on the school and the program, but prospective grad students may want to change their plans if the cost of obtaining an advanced degree will greatly affect their financial freedom for years to come. Students worried about their post-grad school earning potential may want to choose less expensive programs so they can still pursue their degrees without mortgaging their financial futures.

Graduate school requires a substantial investment of time, energy and money. Prospective grad students should do everything possible to ensure they invest in the grad school that best suits their particular needs.


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