Choosing a Graduate School in the United States


Some advice on choosing a Graduate School in the US, including questions to ask and contact information for disciplinary associations.
Sarah Egan
Note by Sarah Egan, updated more than 1 year ago
Sarah Egan
Created by Sarah Egan about 8 years ago

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Choosing a graduate or professional school in the United States

Applying to graduate school in the United States can be very expensive, as each application costs money, so you need to be selective about where you apply. This set of notes offers some steps to help you make your decision. Then you can use GoConqr to help you prepare for the and GRE get you where you want to be!

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1. Decide what you want to study, and at what level.

You might think that what you want to study is obvious, but is it really? If you are interested in psychology, you could pursue a Ph.D in clinical psychology, a masters degree in counselling, or a Ph.D in neuroscience. These would be very different programs and would lead to different career paths. Think ahead to what sort of career you would like, and work backwards to thinking about the qualification you need to get there.

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2. Research the best programs in the field that you are interested in, and pay close attention to your topic interests.

Many professional organizations produce guides to graduate programs in their fields. These can include information about research programs, faculty who teach at an institution, areas of specialization in a department, and funding opportunities. It is worth looking through these to assess how the programs align with your interests - a top ranked engineering program might not specialize in the subfield that most interests you - so a top program might not be your top choice. One way to try and match this is to look for departments where you are familiar with some faculty member's work. When you read an interesting article, find out where the person who wrote it works - you may be able to do research with, or take classes with, that person.Here are some links to professional organizations you could contact for more information. African Studies Association American Academy of Arts and Sciences American Academy of Religion American Anthropological Association American Antiquarian Society American Association for the History of Medicine American Comparative Literature Association American Dialect Society American Economic Association American Folklore Society American Historical Association American Musicological Society American Numismatic Society American Oriental Society American Philosophical Association American Philosophical Society American Political Science Association American Schools of Oriental Research American Society for Aesthetics American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies American Society for Environmental History American Society for Legal History American Society for Theatre Research American Society of Church History American Society of Comparative Law American Society of International Law American Sociological Association American Studies Association Archaeological Institute of America Association for Asian Studies Association for Jewish Studies Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies Association of American Geographers Association of American Law Schools Bibliographical Society of America College Art Association College Forum of the National Council of Teachers of English Dictionary Society of North America Economic History Association German Studies Association Hispanic Society of America History of Science Society International Center of Medieval Art Latin American Studies Association Law and Society Association Linguistic Society of America Medieval Academy of America Metaphysical Society of America Middle East Studies Association of North America Modern Language Association of America National Communication Association National Council on Public History North American Conference on British Studies Oral History Association Organization of American Historians Renaissance Society of America Rhetoric Society of America Shakespeare Association of America Sixteenth Century Society and Conference Society for American Music Society for Cinema and Media Studies Society for Classical Studies Society for Ethnomusicology Society for French Historical Studies Society for Military History Society for Music Theory Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study Society for the History of Technology Society of Architectural Historians Society of Biblical Literature Society of Dance History Scholars World History Association

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3. Research the institutions you think you might be interested in.

You may have some programs in mind, but you need to research the school or college too. The following are important questions to keep in mind: How large is the school and what is the student/faculty ratio? How much will it cost and are funding opportunities available? Will you have an opportunity or an obligation to be a teaching assistant? Is the school in an urban or rural area - could you see yourself living there? How far is the school from where you currently live? Is there support for students with disabilities? Is there support for students with families? Is there support for international students? What types of students attend the school? What proportion of students complete the program? What types of jobs do graduates of the program get? You can search the college website for general questions and the department pages for more specific information.Listings of research by faculty and students, and information about talks and events will give you an idea of how active a department is. You should also be able to find information about current graduate students and recent graduates.The most important thing to remember is that there is no correct answer to the question "What is the best graduate school?", but with some research, you should be able to answer the question "What is the best graduate school for me?"

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4. Start preparing!

You can use GoConqr to help you prepare: Join our GRE group: create and share resources and advice!

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