Finding a Graduate Program...Getting Started


First Questions

So you want to go to graduate school. How do you choose a school to attend? Where can you go for more information?

There are many sources of information--faculty, students, publications, and the Internet, to name a few. But to make the best use of these resources, you need to have answered some basic questions before you begin your search.

Why Graduate School?

The first question is "Why do I want to go to graduate school?" You need a clear idea of what you intend to accomplish to guide your search. (You'll also be asked to explain your reasons as part of the application process.)

People have various reasons for pursuing graduate study, but the two most common reasons are as follows:

Whatever your reason, it takes a great deal of self-discipline to pursue a graduate degree.

What Is Graduate School Like?

Graduate study is radically different from undergraduate study. It's more focused, more intense, more expensive, and in many fields more highly individualized than undergraduate studies are. Admission is much more selective, and standards are higher than for undergraduate admissions.

For some helpful advice on what being a graduate student is like, click here. The information at this site (located at the Computer Science department at Indiana University) deals specifically with graduate study in computer science, but the information is generally useful. Of particular interest is Marie Des Jardin's paper "How to be a Good Graduate Student."

Another useful webpage is the Dead Thesis Society page. The Society was formed by students at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, to help undergraduate honors students and graduate students who are in the process of writing a thesis. Note especially their resources page: it has links that are of broad interest to prospective and current graduate students.

For a slightly different perspective, try the Council of Graduate Schools site.

What Kind of Graduate School Am I Looking for?

There are many possible criteria for selecting a graduate school. Here (in no particular order) is a list of some of them:

Several of the items listed above are dealt with in more detail at a website called PhDs.Org, designed primarily for doctoral students in mathematics, the sciences and engineering. But even if you are in a different field, it might be helpful to check the site out, simply as a way of organizing your thoughts as you consider what aspects of the graduate experience are most important in deciding which schools to apply to or to attend.

Even the likelihood of your admission can be a basis for choosing to apply, or not to apply, to any particular school. Given the time and expense involved, who wants to apply to a school that you won't get into?

Once you have decided which characteristics of a program are most important to you, you can start looking.


Click here for some more suggestions about researching graduate schools.

Click here for some ideas on what the application process is like.

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