Choosing the right graduate school can be an extremely difficult decision. There are a wide variety of programs with different expertise, distances from home, and (let’s be real) price tags. Thankfully, with a little deep thinking, this decision can be a lot easier! Here are a few tips to help you choose the right graduate program for you!
1. Choose a career field
The first thing that you have to do before you can choose a graduate program is nail down what career you want to go into. You should already have a pretty solid idea thanks to the major you chose, but now it’s time to get serious. I don’t want you to spend extra time, energy, and money on a degree that you will never use! So, take the time to decide what you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life. Shadow a variety of professionals in your desired field. Then, once you feel like this is the right decision for you, find graduate schools that specialize in this. Remember, not all careers will require graduate school. So, it is important to figure out what type of education you need in order to have your dream job. Some professions will only require a bachelor degree while others may require a masters or doctorate. This information will also help you choose between applying for masters programs or doctorate programs in your desired profession.
2. Find programs in your state and surrounding states
Once you’ve chosen a career field and have found what type of schooling you will need to earn (masters or doctorate), it’s time to find programs near you! First, I would strongly suggest that you choose an in-state program. This will save you a chunk of cash compared to out-of-state tuition costs! Also, make sure that each program is accredited! Otherwise, you could go through all of that schooling for nothing!
3. Do some research
Once you’ve found a few programs that interest you, make a list and write down important information such as distance from home, program focus, program length, etc. Then, write out what you want in your future graduate program. Only you know how close or far you want to be from home. Only you know what you want to focus on in your career, so finding a program that has the same focus could be to your advantage! When I was applying to physical therapy graduate programs, I knew that I was interested in working with children. Because of this, my first choice program was one that had a lot of professors who specialize in pediatric physical therapy. To help you choose the right program for you, be sure to look at brochures, websites, and even talk to current students if possible! You can also try to take a tour or go to an open house to get your name out there. I went to an open house the year before I applied, and it paid off because a few of the professors actually recognized me at my interview!
4. Make a list of course requirements for each program
Next, you need to make sure that you will meet all of the program’s course requirements. This is an important step. If you don’t meet all requirements, you might as well not apply! If your college doesn’t offer a specific course, you must decide between taking it somewhere else or not applying to that school at all. Keep a list of program requirements handy so that you know what you need to take before filling out your degree plan or making your schedule! Many programs also have recommended courses that will give you bonus points on your applications so be sure to take some of these! Yes, they will be harder courses, but they will look great on your graduate school applications!
5. Make sure you will be able to meet each requirement
You will also have to meet other program requirements! Jot down each program’s specific requirements (such as shadowing hours, volunteer work, internship experience, etc.) so that you don’t accidentally miss anything. Like I said, there is no point in spending money on applications if you don’t have the requirements completed! Make sure you take the required courses, go above the required shadowing hours, complete an internship if needed, and meet any other possible requirements that are listed. Remember, it is important that you go above and beyond what is required. Since everyone is going to hit the requirements, you need to stand out! Personally, I ended up doing one hundred shadowing hours when many of my programs only required thirty-five shadowing hours.
I hope that this post helps you make the best graduate school decision for you! If you have any questions about graduate school or even my own graduate school journey, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to help!
Have you been able to choose a graduate school? If so, I would love to hear what you have decided!
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