Taking the next step: Graduate School

What do you do after college? There are many opportunities for recent college graduates, but one of the most common avenues for students finishing their undergraduate degree is to go on to graduate school.  Graduate schools host both academic programs (focusing on generating original research in a particular field) or professional programs (developing skills for a certain profession) that give students a more specific look at the area of work they are interested in entering.

But picking a good graduate school can be difficult, and oftentimes picking the right program for you is crucial in selecting a future graduate school that will best further your education. Some students pick a program based solely on the ranking rather than on the school itself, the atmosphere, or the faculty. Using the rank given in U.S. News to decide on a graduate school is not a good idea- learn how to correctly use the U.S. News Graduate School ranking system if you truly want to attend a prestigious university.

Besides simply picking a school based on a high ranking, prospective graduate students should treat their search similar to how they searched for the best undergraduate institute. Looking at a wide range of options is necessary in order to ensure that you make the best decision for your educational future. Give yourself enough time before the application process to look through at least 20 schools' websites to further your search. Applying to graduate school takes a lot of time, so start looking early enough to give yourself time to narrow your search and take campus visits to really get the feel of the institution.  You will be learning in that atmosphere for a long time, so you do not want your first visit to be during orientation!

As a graduate student, you will foster much more in-depth professional relationships with faculty and other students in your program, so conversing and meeting with the prospective faculty members you will be working under is vital to ensuring that your graduate school experience is successful. Talking to current students about their experience on campus and in the program can be much more illuminating than a simple search on the college's website. Face to face interactions can tell you more about a graduate program than any website ever could. 

Lastly, once you get accepted to graduate schools, it is important to ask yourself if you are truly ready to continue your education. Some students feel that the job market is so tight that a master's degree in any field will automatically improve their chances for getting a job. Graduate school is expensive and incredibly academically rigorous- don't go simply to get the degree, go because you truly want to continue your experience in a field and you truly love the school you are going to. Talk to people whose jobs you wish to have in the future, people who have related jobs to your field- make sure graduate school is on track with your career desires. Once you decide that graduate school is right for you, and you have applied and been accepted to the perfect school for you, have fun studying!

US News Article:  Critical Steps to finding the right graduate school.