Selecting A Graduate Program

Find the best fit. Tip: Create a spreadsheet and keep track of your programs based on the following considerations:


  • What are the admission requirements?
  • What standardized tests are required and what are the typical scores of incoming students?
  • What academic prerequisites are there?
  • What practical/clinical/research experience is required/ desirable for admission?
  • Is a writing sample required?
  • How many letters of recommendation are requested?
  • When are applications reviewed?
  • When are candidates notified about their status?
  • Does the school allow deferment and under what conditions?
  • What are the academic requirements for completing the degree?
  • How much coursework is required?
  • Are there qualifying exams? When are they generally taken?
  • Is there a thesis or dissertation, and does it have a formal defense?
  • Is there a foreign language competency requirement?
  • To what extent does a student plan her own program?
  • Are there electives?
  • Is there a teaching or other practical requirement to complete the degree?
  • If not, are there opportunities to acquire practical experience?
  • Are there opportunities to publish/present your work?
  • If a PhD program, what is the typical length of completion?


  • Are fellowships or financial aid available?
  • Are they based on need or on merit?
  • Are they for incoming students? Enrolled students?
  • Is there funding for conference travel or special projects?
  • What is the likelihood of you being a recipient?
  • Are there teaching or research assistantships? Rotations? Clerkships?


  • How and when do students acquire advisors?
  • Are they assigned or selected?
  • What is the faculty/student ratio?
  • Do faculty members in the department represent a variety of points of view toward the discipline?
  • Are the research interests of the faculty similar to your own?
  • Is there a particular faculty member whose work you know and with whom you would like to collaborate? Is he/she in a position to take you on as an advisee?


  • Does the institution have the resources you will need for your studies and/or professional training?
  • How extensive and available are the labs and other training facilities?
  • Are there specialized research facilities available?
  • Do the library resources fit your needs and/or is there a good inter-library loan system?
  • Are there cooperative programs with other educational, cultural and research institutions?


  • Who will your fellow students be?
  • What is the attrition rate? (How frequently do students in the department fail to complete their degree requirements or pass licensure exams?)
  • What is the general morale among students?
  • Are there opportunities for collaboration with other students?
  • What career services exist for graduate students?
  • How many of the recent graduates are employed and where?


  • Can you make this place your home?
  • On a lifestyle level, is the department, university, town a good fit for you?
  • Are there issues of race, sexuality, religion, age, family that may determine how happy you will be?