Deciding on Graduate School

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How should you choose where to go to graduate school? It’s an important decision. You will plant your academic, social, and likely career roots there. Your network will grow, along with your experiences and knowledge.

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There are many factors that will shape your decision. Here are a few to consider:

Which program is most respected among industry leaders? Students usually have a good idea of the top programs within a field. For law, perhaps it’s Harvard or Yale. For technology, perhaps a program at MIT. For some students, these are “reach” schools–places to apply, with the understanding that the competition is fierce and spots are limited. It’s good to go into the application process knowing all of your options–including the best programs.

Which program is best ranked by your peers? At, other grad students (and recent graduates) rate and review their programs based on their experiences. These rankings are different from other, more traditional rankings, because they’re honest. When you ask someone your age, who has just gone through the decision-making process, the results are just more authentic.

Will you be happier in a city, in the suburbs or in the middle of nowhere? This is a question with a complex answer. Some students thrive in smaller environments with more individualized attention. Others like the shark tank of huge programs and star-studded faculty located in a metropolis. You should weigh your preferences against where you want to start your career. In addition, look into the academic and professional opportunities wherever you plan to apply.

What are the unofficial perks of each program? Sunny beaches? Free entry to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a year? Each program has a handful of unofficial perks. Consider these–because your quality of life in grad school matters.

Which program has the most jelly beans? Weigh the pluses and minuses of each program. Yes, bring out the figurative scale and bag of jelly beans. Sometimes, the answers aren’t so black and white. By taking the time to sort through each pro and con, you will likely see a clearer answer emerge.

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This indicates that a school has an annual tuition of $15,000 or less as reported to the National Center for Education Statistics or based on the school's website.