What You Need to Consider When Researching Graduate Schools

What You Need to Consider When Researching Graduate Schools main image

Not sure where you should start your graduate school search? Figuring out where you want to apply to is far from straightforward, particularly if you lack a strong support network to help you assess your options.

To help you organize your research and plan your next steps, we asked Deirdre M. Kane, the director of admissions at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, for advice. Having worked at the University of Georgia since 2011, Kane has plenty of experience handling MBA and graduate school applications, so is well placed to help you make the right decisions in your grad school research.

What should I be looking for when I start researching schools?

Before starting your research, there are two things to do.

1)    Evaluate your own candidacy

2)    Make a list of what is important to you in a program

For the first point, review your transcript(s) and your resume with a fresh eye. Are there low grades or bad semesters that you have to explain in an optional essay? Does your resume detail your accomplishments and the results of your work rather than simply list your tasks and responsibilities? Are there any fun/stretch projects at work or outside of work that you can volunteer for and add to your resume?

Once you’ve done this, make a list of what matters to you: location, culture, curriculum, cost, career support, faculty, school size, program size.

Make a spreadsheet listing these factors and evaluate each school using this list. This approach will help you look past the rankings to find the programs that are the best potential fit for you.

Should I be looking at schools based on where I want to live long-term?

Not necessarily. The long term is far away and there is no way to be certain of anything. You should look at employment reports to learn more about what graduates do and where they go.

Also keep in mind that your job search is different from anyone else’s and it’s more important to work with career staff who can support you best.

Are campus visits necessary? If not, what should I do instead?

They aren’t necessary, depending on your resources and spare time, but they can be very helpful for you in determining where you will thrive and be happiest. Websites don’t tell you everything.

If you can’t visit, then find other ways to connect and learn more – webinars, recruiting events in your city and talking with current students are all worthwhile alternatives.

If I’m thinking of studying outside my country, what are some of the most important things I should consider?

If you’re not a US citizen and you’re looking to study in the US, you’ll need to work a little harder to do your research since you may not be able to visit schools. Decide whether or not it’s important to be with other people from your country of origin in your program or whether you want to be challenged by an entirely different environment.

If you’re part of an overrepresented demographic, like China or India, then you may have to invest a lot of time in your essays, resume, and recommendations to tell your story so that you stand out.

How do I choose which program and concentration to pursue?

What you study should be tied to your career goals. It’s also important that those goals are reasonable and achievable and build off the skills, experience, and passions in which you already have demonstrated experience.

Is it necessary to have my program and concentration already decided before starting my research?

No, but depending on the school, you may need to be able to articulate your long- and short-term goals and know what each school offers to help you achieve those goals.

AdComs want to see that you have a career direction in mind and a plan to achieve your goals. They also know you will be exposed to other opportunities when you are with them, so you also need to show you’re open and flexible.

How do I research the employment or internship options at various schools?

Ranked programs – and quality programs – are very transparent about their intake stats and their employment outcomes. If you’re looking at a school that isn’t, then you might not want to apply there.

Go to the career section of the school website and look for employment reports. If you don’t find your questions answered in those reports, then seek out information from the admissions office and/or talk with current students about their job search experiences.

How early should I start looking at different programs?

As early as possible. Candidates often underestimate how long it takes to prepare applications and to prepare for and take the GMAT or the GRE.

If you have to take the test(s) more than once, then you need to build in time for that as well. So, if you want to apply in Round 1, you should realistically start planning no later than spring of that same year.

Written by Craig OCallaghan

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