An important question to keep in mind: Is the campus right for you? Do you prefer somewhere rural, urban or in between?
Deciding to head back to school to study for an advanced degree can be a monumental decision. The endeavor will require you to invest a considerable amount of time and money, and it may even necessitate a move far away from home. That's why it's so important that you choose the very best school that can meet your academic and personal needs the first time around. After all, ending up in the wrong place and then having to transfer or even quit altogether can be incredibly detrimental, not only to your finances, but also your morale.
Therefore, to ensure that you end up at the most suitable institution for you, keep the following things in mind while you conduct the very important search process:
1. Is the institution reputable?
Check and then check again if an institution is accredited. If an institution and/or program is accredited, that means it has met a certain level of standards as mandated by the U.S. Department of Education, Idealist explained. Employers primarily will only recognize degree qualifications from accredited schools, so it's vital that you attend such an institution. Furthermore, heading to an unaccredited school may also impede your efforts to further your education down the road. As Live Career pointed out, it's possible that law graduates from an unaccredited university will be prohibited from sitting for the bar exam. In essence, heading to a college or university without accreditation, in many cases, simply isn't worth the time and money.
2. Is the school competitive?
If your previous academic achievements and experience allow for it, then it's a good idea to select a school with competitive admission, Live Career advised. This is for the obvious fact that competitive schools tend to be more highly regarded in the world of employment, not to mention that they will likely provide you with a higher standard of education. Conversely, it's also important to be pragmatic throughout your search. Check out what each school typically expects in terms of undergraduate GPA scores and GRE test results. If you find that you do not meet the base requirements for a competitive school, then it's best not to apply, as it will likely be a fruitless undertaking.
"Check out each school's base requirements in terms of GPA and GRE scores."
3. Is the course suitable?
Perhaps one of the biggest things to keep in mind, above and beyond the reputation of the school, is whether the courses offered are suitable for your academic goals. In other words, there's little point in applying for a degree program at elite Harvard University if a different program is actually more suitable for you at a less prestigious school. Research the degree program at each institution thoroughly and find out as much as you can about the courses and specializations offered, Idealist explained. The source elaborated that other questions pertaining to the course should also be taken into account, such as whether or not online classes are available and the typical size of each class.
4. Is the faculty impressive?
Another wise move is to research the faculty members who are teaching in your department. As a graduate student you will likely be forging much closer working relationships with professors than you perhaps did while as an undergraduate – this is because the professors will be more inclined to treat you as intellectual equals at the graduate level, and you will likely be working alongside them on research projects and/or dissertations. It's so important, therefore, that you choose a school boasting reputable and accomplished professors, as this will no doubt enhance the level of education you receive and your overall experience at the school, Family Share asserted.
5. Does the campus suit your personality?
According to Idealist, academic achievement is often impacted by whether or not an individual is happy in their surroundings. That's why it's imperative to keep in mind the kind of campus in which you will be happiest. For example, it's probably not the best idea to head to a rural liberal arts school in Vermont or upstate New York if you're a city person at heart. Likewise, if you can't stand the noise and pollution of an urban locale it's a safe bet to say that you won't enjoy studying at somewhere like the University of Chicago or Columbia University.
Other aspects of campus life must also be taken into account. Ask questions such as: Does the school reflect my values in terms of politics? Are there social groups and activities that I can get involved in? Is there ample public transportation or will I need a car? All of these factors can make an enormous difference in your graduate school experience.
6. Can I afford it?
Perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind before embarking on an advanced degree course is the cost. Look at the tuition of each institution, the cost of room and board and the general cost of living in the area, Family Share recommended. Once you have weighed up the total cost, research whether or not the institution in question offers financial aid or scholarships. If you need to take out a loan, calculate what the payments will be and how much potential debt you could find yourself in after school ends. In other words, do your homework when it comes to the financial side of things. Although graduate school will likely be expensive wherever you go, some institutions will be considerably more pricey than others, so choose wisely.