5 things to consider when choosing a graduate program

This guest post was written by our new stu­dent blogger, Emily Brown, a grad­uate stu­dent in the Col­lege Stu­dent Devel­op­ment and Coun­seling program.

We’ve estab­lished that going to grad school isn’t always a good idea and that it is a huge com­mit­ment of time, money, and energy. Once you’ve made the deci­sion that grad school is right for you, you’re still faced with the daunting task of choosing a pro­gram. There are a few key things to keep in mind when working through the process:

  •  Location. An easy way to narrow your choices at the beginning is by location. Are there places that you are simply unwilling to live while pursuing your degree? Do you plan on continuing a job in your current location? I knew I wanted to keep my full-time job as long as possible, so I only researched graduate programs in the Boston area. Conveniently, Boston still has a lot of options, but narrowing my search that way made it feel more manageable.

    Image from fastweb.com


  • Reputation. Just like when applying to undergrad, it’s easy to get caught up in schools’ reputations. Meeting your own academic goals and needs should be your top priority so remember that just because it’s an Ivy League doesn’t mean it will be a good fit for you. Graduate programs can vary greatly within the same school so it’s important to research programs and faculty members specifically to determine a good match.
  • Requirements. There are admissions requirements, and then there are program requirements once you get in. Before applying, you’ll have to compare the program requirements with your own credentials. Is there a minimum GPA requirement or certain prerequisite classes? Do you have to submit GRE scores? Make sure you meet these requirements and include all required documents before hitting send. Additionally, most graduate programs will require some sort of experiential learning outside of the classroom. It might be research, an internship, or other practical experience. Think about what will be most beneficial to you and how you can balance your coursework with an unpaid interning or researching.
  • Passion v. Realism. As a career services groupie, I am all about following your passion when it comes to education and career. However, when making an investment in that passion, it’s important to consider what kind of opportunities will be available to you once you complete the degree. Talk to alumni of the programs you’re considering and ask about their experiences in the program and how it prepared them for their current job. Do their jobs appeal to you? You can find alumni to speak to by asking the admissions office or searching on LinkedIn (it’s not creepy, I promise).
  • Cost. Once you’ve hit send on the applications and the acceptances start rolling in, you’ll have more decisions to make. Of course the financial aid a school offers will be a factor in your decision, but it’s smart to also consider the cost of living where the schools are located. Maybe that school in New York City offered you more financial aid, but are you going to spend those savings on one trip to the nearest Whole Foods? You have to be realistic about the cost of school as well as living expenses and make decisions that make sense for you financially.

Once you’ve made it past step one, deciding to go to grad school, make sure you do your due dili­gence researching pro­grams to find the one that is the best fit for you and will propel you toward your career goals. Loca­tion, rep­u­ta­tion, cur­riculum require­ments, cost and career oppor­tu­ni­ties are all key fac­tors to con­sider and will help narrow your choices and ulti­mately select the right grad­uate pro­gram for you.

Emily Brown is a Career Devel­op­ment intern and a grad­uate stu­dent in Northeastern’s Col­lege Stu­dent Devel­op­ment and Coun­seling Pro­gram. She is a life­long Bostonian inter­ested in the inte­gra­tion of social media into the pro­fes­sional realm.  Con­tact her at e.​brown@​neu.​edu.