Congratulations! You have decided to continue your education. You want to continue to learn about a topic that you’re interested in and at some point go out into the world and show it! However, now you have to pick a school that’s perfect.
Crap. Which program is right for you? Which school offers all you need? Do you want an online program or face-to-face? So many things to consider. Well, don’t worry. Here are a few steps you can take to pick the perfect grad school for you!
Is Grad School For You
Before we dive into how to find the perfect grad school for you, I want you to ask yourself this question. Is grad school for you? It seems so silly to ask but trust me, you do not want to take this path and then end up miserable.
Graduate school is WAY different from undergraduate. There is more expected from you and it will push you to intellectual points you never knew you were capable of handling. So literally go to a mirror, look at yourself, and ask, “Is grad school for me?” Do you need it to further your career or do you just want to continue to learn? Are you willing to put yourself through this for another 2-3 years? 2-3 years does not sound like a long time but each semester feels like a year in and of itself.
I once heard someone say that when you go to a graduate school, you are making a pact with yourself, your cohort, and your professors that you will work as hard as possible to obtain this level of education. Serious stuff right? I want to tell you that grad school is not for everyone and that is ok. Sometimes people feel pressured to go to grad school by their peers, professors, or even themselves.
It does not make you any less superior or less of a person to not go. Do not enter this if you think this is just the next step after undergraduate. Some people go into the work force for years and then come back to grad school because they then feel it was right for them. It is a commitment that you have to be serious about. If you feel that you can honestly say yes, that grad school is for you, then let’s continue.
What are your basic needs?
What is it that you want from a program? This is the most important question. Don’t focus on a school, focus on a program. Think about the school after but do not place its importance as high as the program. Is there a professor that you really want to learn from? Do you want the chance to do a thesis on a specific topic or just to take classes that apply to your career path? You should sit down and make a list of what you expect from a program.
For me, I didn’t even have a name for the type of program I wanted, I just knew what I wanted to learn about. I made a list that I wanted a place that was focused on women’s empowerment, societal views of women, and the dynamics of a family. After googling those keys words in various ways, I found that the program for me was Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies.
What’s convenient is that the classes my program doesn’t offer that I am interested in, there is another department at the same school that offers them. Don’t just think about your educational needs but also think about the basics. I knew that I saw myself in the classroom. I don’t thrive as well in an online situation so I needed a program that was face-to-face.
Where do you see yourself?
Another important question is where do you see yourself learning? Do you think you would prefer a program that is overseas or one in the United States? Maybe if you are looking to get a degree in international studies, you would get the most out of your program in a different country. Or maybe you have children and want to keep them near their school so you choose a program that’s near you.
That is something else to think about. Just because you want to grad school, that does not mean you need to pause your life. If you have a great job that you don’t want to leave, don’t leave it. Find something that is close to you and commute or find an online program. That is something that is so different from undergraduate. You do not need to put your life on hold for a graduate degree. So consider these things when looking for a grad school.
- Where do I want to be in the world?
- Is it affecting my current life?
- Am I willing to uproot myself to a new location?
- Would I prefer online or face-to-face?
Just some things to think about when picking the perfect grad school for you.
Also important is what do you see this graduate degree doing for you? Do you already know that after a Master’s you want to go straight for a Ph.D.? There are some programs that offer a joint degree so that by the time you finish, you will have both. Or if you want to do the Master’s first and then a Ph.D., some programs will require you to do a thesis which would be beneficial to getting into a Ph.D. program.
Or perhaps after getting this Master’s, you will want to change the Ph.D. to a different program. Graduate degrees are all about mastering a focus into a specific field. So you can choose a Master’s program that is one topic and after completing it, you realize that you want to focus more heavily one aspect. That’s where you can pick up the Ph.D. The further you go with your education, the more time you will spend on that topic, so choose a good one.
Even though you have decided on a program, there is still the conversation around cost. Most people will agree that they are typically the most broke while pursuing a graduate degree. It consumes all of your time and leaves little room for a job. So you not only will be looking for a way to pay for school but also pay for you to live.
One thing that I heavily researched when looking for a grad school was GA (graduate assistant) positions. I emailed every program I applied to and asked them about their GA programs. Most GA programs either offer you a stipend or a tuition reduction. The one I am doing offers me a stipend which I budget perfectly to pay for school and life. So be sure to consider cost factors when looking for the perfect grad school.
I hope these tips are helpful for you when choosing the perfect grad school and that you will be successful!