Selecting a graduate school

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This week we will be featuring guest blogger Sawyer Baker, a graduate student at The George Washington University and intern for Pathways to Housing D.C. This post continues last weeks discussion about graduate school.

Things to consider when selecting a graduate school:

  1. Do your research. Education is an investment…a large, monetary investment. You wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on a home or car without getting reports or looking at it first, would you? Use college breaks to visit schools, if possible. At the very least, get in touch with the coordinator of the program you are considering. Email him or her. Set up a time to talk via phone. Ask questions. Many times, he or she has more information than you could ever find on a website (and maybe even tips for applying!).
  2. Who is on their faculty? Have their faculty members published research on the topics you are interested in pursuing? Faculty will not only teach you, they are doors to research assistantships. They are also mentors, letter of recommendation writers and guides through the maze of graduate school.
  3. Is the school well known and ranked in your field? While the university or college name itself carries weight, after graduate school comes a career (or more school, but that’s a whole other topic) and you want to be marketable. Make sure the school and degree that follows your name merits its place.
  4. Does the graduate student population seem to be involved? Do they have a student organization? Do they seem to be a community? Yes, there is the depiction that all graduate students do is work, go to class, sleep and do it all again. But there is so much more to it than that. Being involved, just like it is stressed in your high school and undergraduate years, still holds true.
  5. Are there available research and teaching assistantships and fellowships available? This is very, VERY important when funding your education. NOTE: Applications for these usually have their own due dates before the general admissions deadline. Be aware of deadlines!

The list could go on and on, but my best advice would be to decide what you love to do. Go all in. If that means finding a job after undergrad and getting started with your career, then do it. If that means taking two years in a graduate program to dive further in, then do it. Weigh the costs and benefits and go with your instincts because they are usually right—even if they weren’t formulated in a “projected resume” assignment for years ago.


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