What is Your Purpose for Going to Graduate School

What do you hope to accomplish?

Are you interested in a particular area of research?

Do you need a specific credential to enter your future career?

How does each program fit your:

  • Academic ability
  • Background
  • Interests
  • Career objectives
  • Finances

Factors to Consider in Evaluating a Graduate Program

The Institution and the Degree Programs offered:

  • Accreditation of the university
  • National standing of the program
  • Philosophy and focus of the program
  • How selective are they? How many candidates apply and how many are accepted?

Pre-requisites for Acceptance into a Program:

What do they look for in candidates? Do you meet these basic prerequisites? If not, what can you do?

  • Undergraduate major
  • GPA
  • Specific course requirements
  • Required academic skills
  • Required standardized testing
  • Required related work experience


Faculty are an extremely important factor because as you do your graduate research, you will be working closely with and monitored by the faculty.  Consider:

  • Who are the top people in your field of interest?  Where are they teaching?
  • Research and recently published work
  • Reputation in the field (a critical factor in a doctoral program)
  • Size of department
  • Emphasis on mentoring and availability to students
  • Ability to support graduate students through research grants


  • Academic abilities and skills
  • Diversity
  • Age/work experience
  • Living/working conditions
  • Success of graduates upon completion of the program

Geographic Location:

  • In what part of the country do you want to study?
  • Do you prefer an urban or more rural area?


  • Research facilities: library, computer, and laboratory
  • Housing
  • Health, fitness, and food services
  • Career Services when it’s time to find a position


  • Degree programs offered in your field of interest
  • Are there enough courses in the branch of the field that you are interested in?
  • Types and nature of course offerings
  • Frequency of course offerings
  • Requirements for the master’s degree
    • Number of credits
    • Comprehensive examination and/or thesis
    • Fieldwork/Internship
  • Requirements for the doctoral degree
    • Language proficiency test
    • Course work
  • Student-faculty ratio
  • Interdisciplinary and interdepartmental offerings
  • Opportunities for internships, and teaching and research assistantships

Cost of Study:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Housing: on or off campus
  • Cost of living in the area
  • Availability of financial aid such as fellowships, assistantships, work-study, loans, part-time work in the area.
  • What kind of financial aid is available? Will you qualify? What are the opportunities to do assistantships?


If possible, visit the institution and speak with faculty members, currently enrolled students, and admissions and financial aid officers to get first-hand answers to your questions.