How to Find the Right Grad School for You!

Hello Readers,

Welcome back to my blog! I am so glad that you are here because I have an announcement for you. I have an Instagram! Please, check out my Instagram for daily updates of what I am doing in San Francisco. Although I do many posts about my SF travels, my Instagram captures moments that are not always shown here. Here are just some of my photos from my Insta.

So please take the time to follow my Instagram @studyinginheels to get more photos of my everyday San Francisco Life. 

Going back to my blog topic, I am going to talk about how to decide which grad schools are right for you. If you are reading this, congratulations on your decision to apply to grad school. I do not regret my decision, and it is amazing studying for my future career. Hopefully, this post will help you either create an ideal list of graduate schools or help you finalize your list. For this first step, I am trying to spread as wide of a net as possible. This is the time for you to try to be as open-minded as possible. Who knows, you may have never heard of this school and it will be the perfect match for you. 

1. Start looking on Google and/or search engines

So you may have an idea of where you want to go, but you need to have some options when it comes to applying. This is similar to applying to college except for this time you are convincing schools of your career path and why "X" school will help attain your goal. There are two ways of searching for grad schools. You can do the simple task of googling "X graduate program".  Sure results will pop up, but it will be so overwhelming to individually click on each program. Also searching through 1.52 million Google results sounds overwhelming.

For me, I used a grad school search engines to narrow down my results. The two I really like are gradschoolmatch.com and petersons.com. With gradschoolmatch, it works best when you fill out a profile and they match you based on your profile. It is helpful because the computer will decide for you. The downfall of this site is I don't its search tool; you can only fill in one answer per section. For example, it is not possible to look at schools in both New York and California, you got to pick one state or one region at a time. However, if you are curious what the computer says based on your experience, this may be really insightful.

Petersons.com, in general, is a huge search engine for anything Collegiate from SAT guides to graduate program search. This one is helpful because, in the search tool, you can select as many options as you like per section. Also, if you don't like committing to websites, this is the place to go. You can use the search engine without signing up. There is no grad school match application, but with all the selections you can pick in one search, it is possible to create the perfect list.

For me, I say use both engines to create the list. I use both for the following reasons: 1) I like to see if similar schools appear on both sites 2) I make sure I saw as many school options as possible. Search engines aren't perfect and it can miss a school or two (especially if it's a small program).

What to Search for in your grad school wish list

Like any wish list, this is just for you and only you. Put down schools that will make YOU happy. Not your mom, professor, lover, etc. In the end, this is your degree and your grad school experience. You will have multiple people try to put in their two cents on which school you should attend. They are not being heinous and they truly love you, BUT,  this is your wish list so have fun, go crazy.

Anyhow hopping off my soapbox, I do two rounds to truncate my application list. For the first round, I look at both engines and I base my search on my program(s), the degree type, and where I would like to study. For me, I was looking for a master's degree in museum studies and/or art history. As for location, I love both the east and west coast of the United States so I was searching for schools that happen to lie in those areas. From there, I bookmark results and sift through my options by picking schools that stand out to me (sometimes I picked out a school because it had a cool name or I pick that school because I had a friend that went there).

I have over 20 schools on my list! I can't apply to all these schools!

    Simmer down, we aren't done yet! I have a process, don't test it. If you don't like it, then good luck on Google. Now this list may be greater or smaller than 20 but this part is where we really knuckle down and truly think, can I study here? Some schools may have already been on your dream list while others you probably didn't know had a program. At this step, I actually go to the school's site because it will have the most accurate information about the program. So here are the factors you should research and I promise you will have your list of schools that you are going to apply to this year.

1. Double check that you are going to be earning the degree type you want once you graduate

  1.  I know this sounds silly, but sometimes I will scope further into the program and I find out that it is only a museum studies certificate and not the degree itself. Or, that I can only earn the art history master's degree once I complete the Ph.D. program

2. Understand the Graduate Program from "X" school

  1. Sure, you will walk away with an "X degree" from said program, but you never got to study what you wanted from the program :(. For example, some programs are based on museum education. Certainly museum education is important, but it is not the path I want to follow. There is no reason to apply to a school that won't cover what you want to learn.

3. Check out the duration of the program

  1. How long is the program going to take? How long will it actually take for the student to complete the program? Does the school have a time limit on how many years you must complete (Blank) degree? All of these are crucial factors. Even though we all would love to stay students forever, the last thing we need is more student debt.

4. Look at the Professors and faculty for the program

  1. Look at their CV, experience in the field, and their role at the school. This is the time to put your Facebook stalking skills to use. This is crucial because these are the people who you are going to work with for the next couple of years and potentially, they are the ones writing letters of rec for you in your future field!

5. Look at the current students in the program

  1. Not every program will have the students listed, but if they do, take the time to read their profiles. Figure out what are they doing, are they motivated in the program? What have they done so far in the program? Remember this could be you next year, if they are getting great internships, then you can too.

6. Look at the alumni page

  1. Hopefully, they have an alumni page or some sort of page that discusses what past graduate students are doing. How is the employment rate for post-grad? What type of career paths is the alumni following? Is this what you want?

 7. Look at the requirements/applications page

  1. Check out what the school wants from you before you even attend the school. Some will require a certain GRE score or some internship experience before applying. Also, this is the time to see how their application process works. How many letters of recs do you need? CV or resume? How many essays do you need to write? How much will it cost to apply? Do you need to interview? This process is overwhelming and certainly, you will have to fill out forms and pay for applications. However, the school may not be worth it if its demands are too extraordinary. This is not to say this is a bad school, but it puts things into perspective of how much you want to attend the school.
  2.  Now, this last step is detrimental, but you can do this either before you apply to the program or when you are accepted into the program. If you want more information regarding the program, contact the school and ask for a specific faculty member. That faculty member should be able to answer any questions you have.

I think I got my list of schools I want to apply to, now what?

Congratulations! The hardest part is done! Now it is a matter of applying to the schools. You probably have so many schools you want to apply to, but it can be hard to remember who wants what. To keep everything organized in an excel or google sheets.  It will make your application process as stress-free as possible.

Remember, it is not the title of the school that is going to get you places, it is what you do while you are in grad school. Your CV/Resume is going to ask about your experience, skills, letters of rec and many other factors. The school you attended is only one portion! Whatever school you decide, take as much advantage as you can. Talk to professors, search for quality-oriented internships and earn that amazing GPA.

I hope this is helpful for step 1 of the grad school application. I post every Wednesday/Thursday and please make sure you check out my Instagram. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to comment below. If you like what I'm doing, please give me a like and suggest my blog to all your friends. Have a great rest of your evening.

XOXO,

Paxton