Determining Which Graduate Programs You Should Apply To For Admission

  • The number of schools you should apply to will depend on the type of program you are trying to enter.
  • Consider your purpose in going to graduate school.
  • If you are well focused, you can look for specific features in programs.
  • Be aware of  the top people in your field of interest. In some cases, it is more important to study under a particular person than to study at a prestigious school (But, somehow, find out if they plan to stay!) Try to make contact with them.
  • When you write for materials from graduate school programs, request a faculty listing including their recent publications.
  • As you review websites and catalogs, determine the emphasis of the department, the atmosphere. Are there enough courses in the branch of the field you are considering?
  • Estimate your chances of being accepted.
    • How selective are they?
    • Do you meet all the pre-requisites?
  • Depending on your discipline and advice from your professors, it may be useful to visit the institution and speak with department chair and/or faculty members, current enrolled students, and admissions and financial aid officers to get first hand answers to your questions!
    Learn about…

    • scope and frequency of course offerings
    • possible major professors and their backgrounds
    • what kinds of students enroll in their programs
    • available resources: library, computer facilities, labs, study spaces
    • financial support options: fellowships, teaching and research assistantships
  • In general, how does this program fit your academic ability, background, interests, career objectives and finances?
    • Refer to the following list of factors to consider in evaluating graduate programs.
    • Keep notes on what you learn about these programs as you evaluate them!
    • Remember, you are trying to identify the program that is right for you!

Factors To Consider In Evaluating A Graduate Program

Geographic Location:

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

The Institution and the Actual Degree Programs Offered:

  • Accreditation of the university
  • National standing of the program
  • Current happenings at these institution
  • Alternate programs that will enable you to achieve the same objective.
  • Philosophy and general atmosphere
  • How selective are they? How many candidates apply and how many are accepted?

Understand the Pre-requisites For Acceptance Into a Program:

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

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


  • Academic training
  • Research activities
  • Recently published work
  • Reputation in the field (critical factor in a doctoral program)
  • Size of department
  • Concern for student development
  • Type of mentors they are and availability to students
  • Philosophy and orientation
  • Ability to support graduate students through research grants

This is a most important factor because as you do your research you will be working closely with and monitored by the faculty.


  • Academic abilities and skills
  • Achievements
  • Diversity and geographic representation
  • Age/work experience
  • Student groups and organizations
  • Satisfaction with the program
  • Living/working conditions

What is the level of success of graduates upon completion of the program?

The Facilities:

  • Financial support it receives
  • Research facilities: library, computer, and laboratory
  • Housing
  • Health, fitness and food services
  • Graduate Services
  • Career Services


  • Purpose of the department
  • Degree programs offered in field of interest
  • Sub-fields
  • Joint degree programs
  • Scope of course offerings:
    • 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
    • Selection of major professor
    • General knowledge test
    • Prospectus
    • Candidacy
    • Research
    • Dissertation
  • Student-faculty ratio
  • Kind of interaction between professors and students
  • Interdisciplinary and interdepartmental offerings
  • Opportunities for internships, teaching and research assistantships
  • Successful placement of graduates upon graduation

Do they offer what you are looking for in a program?

Cost of Study:

  • Tuition
  • Housing: on or off campus
  • Fees
  • Cost of living in the area
  • Availability of financial aid
  • Opportunities for 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?

Be sure to get as much first hand information as possible by

  • visiting the institution (if this is appropriate).
  • making an appointment to meet with faculty.
  • speaking with students who are currently enrolled.
  • speaking with people who graduated from the program.
  • asking professionals in your field what they think of the program.